US centcom commander ‘confident’ in Qatar’s security capabilities during World Cup

The Gulf state hosts the Al-Udeid Airbase, the largest American military post in the Middle East.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) expressed its confidence in Qatar’s security capabilities during the 2022 FIFA World Cup as the country steps closer to the major event, an American commander said on Sunday.

CENTCOM commander General Michael Kurilla made the remarks during his visit to Qatar this week, where he met the Gulf state’s Chief of Staff of Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Salim Al-Nabit and Qatar’s Minister of State for Defence Khalid Al Attiyah.

“Kurilla reinforced the strength of the US-Qatar military partnership, an enduring relationship that dates back more than 50 years to the onset of Qatari independence. Qatar, a Major non-NATO ally (MNNA), is critical to the security and stability of the Middle East,” read a CENTCOM statement.

The US named the Gulf state a MNNA earlier this year, in a move that analysts said reflects the growing strength between the two allies. The designation provides Washington’s foreign partners with several benefits in areas concerning defence trade and security cooperation.

“Our strategic approach is summarised by three words: People, Partners, and Innovation,” said Kurilla. 

This year, the US is also collaborating with Qatar to help secure the World Cup. Last month, Qatar and the US agreed to cooperate on technical arrangements during the event.

In January, members of Qatar’s police forces met with the New York Police Department’s Transit Bureau team in January to exchange expertise over safety and security best practices during major events.

In July, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed agreements with Qatar over World Cup security.

The DHS would help “identify air passengers linked to terrorism, trafficking, detecting watchlisted travellers, and monitoring potential security risks at Hamad International Airport,” as it explained in a joint statement

Both parties also agreed on further commitment to collaborate on countering threats from unmanned aircraft systems.

“We must rely on our strong military partners in the region such as the Qatar Armed Forces for security and stability in the region. No nation can go it alone, and no one can solve the region’s complex problems alone,” added Kurilla.

Qatar-US defence

The Gulf state hosts the Al-Udeid Airbase, the largest American military post in the Middle East, which is used extensively by the US for its operations in the region.

Last year, the two nations cooperated in mass evacuations of Afghans and foreigners in light of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on 15 August. 

At the time, Qatar carried out history’s largest airlift of people by evacuating at least 80,000 Afghans and foreigners.

More recently, Qatar helped release US national Mark Frerichs from Afghanistan after two years of captivity.

During last year’s Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, Doha agreed to represent Washington’s interest in Afghanistan in light of the US closing its embassy following the Taliban takeover.

Last year, the US Congress issued a statement calling legislators to include Qatar in the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2022. The move reflected the strategic importance of the Gulf state’s role in the Middle East.

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