(CNN Spanish) — During the past three decades, and especially after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, the bulk of the United States’ military actions in the world have been concentrated in the Middle East, and Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup. Played a central role in operations.
Since the early 2000s, the US military has been using Qatar’s Al-Udeed Air Force Base, located about 20 miles southwest of Doha, to support its military operations in the region.
The base has been instrumental in US military efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among other countries. And in August 2021, for example, it was used to evacuate thousands of Afghans after the US’s definitive withdrawal from Kabul.
Why are US forces in Qatar?
Military cooperation between the United States and Qatar began to develop during the Gulf War (1990–1991), when both countries were part of a military alliance to drive out Iraqi forces from Kuwait, which had invaded the country.
Ruled at the time by Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Qatar wanted to increase influence and status in the region after its 1971 independence from Britain.
During the conflict, Qatar, like many other countries in the Persian Gulf and the region, allowed coalition forces to use its territory and deployed troops against Iraqi forces led by Saddam Hussein.
In 1992, after the war, Qatar and the US signed a defense cooperation agreement, which has been renewed and expanded in subsequent years, as Middle East expert Christopher M. Blanchard as per the 2014 US Congressional Report.
The current Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who succeeded his father in 2013, has deepened this alliance, notably represented by the huge al-Udeed base built by Qatar in the 1990s, which holds US$1 billion. dollars have been invested. —Even though the country had only a small air force.
Blanchard said, however, that “gradually facilitated deeper cooperation with US military forces.”
In addition to the al-Udeed base, Qatar, a hydrocarbon-rich country with one of the world’s largest gas reserves, has purchased large quantities of US military equipment, the Pentagon reported, including Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries, helicopters Fighters are included. F-15 fighters and Javelin anti-tank missiles, such as those recently used in combat in Ukraine.
At the same time, Qatar has maintained a balanced foreign policy that has led to tensions: its defense ties with the US are deep, while at the same time it has maintained ties with groups such as the Palestinian Hamas and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The region competes for an intermediary role, and influence with Saudi Arabia, another US ally.
In fact, in 2017 Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries broke ties with Qatar, which they accused of supporting terrorism and maintaining good relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
To be precise, Qatar has maintained a similar position between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the main regional rival of the Saudi Kingdom and an adversary of the United States.
Here is evident the strategic importance of the Qatar Peninsula, which enters the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a country with which it also shares exploitation of the South Pars natural gas field.
a vast base in the Persian Gulf
Because of its strategic location in the Persian Gulf and its technical capabilities – it has one of the longest runways in the region with a capacity to house B-52 bombers – became al-Udeed United’s largest military base over the years. States in the Middle East, which have about 11,000 troops (including Air Force, Navy and Army personnel).
From there, the United States supported operations in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 2001 and 2003 attacks, but also against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in recent years. B-1 and B-52 bombers, F-16 fighters and C-17 transport aircraft are part of the team that operated from the base.
Al-Udeed is also home to the Joint Air Operations Center (CAOCC), which controls all US military deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and 18 other countries. America’s allies such as the United Kingdom also serve at the base.
The CAOCC, which cost $60 million to build, was completed in 2003. Before it was ready, the United States operated from one of its military bases in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to the CAOCC, al-Udeed is also home to the US Air Force’s Central Command Outpost and the 379th Expeditionary Air Wing.
A military unit made up of several squadrons, this air wing has about 100 aircraft in Qatar, including fighter, transport, intelligence and refueling aircraft.
With reporting from CNN’s Brad Lendon, Ellie Kaufman and Veronica Straqualursi.