WASHINGTON — Just miles from where former Guantanamo Bay apprehension suspects have resettled, American warplanes take off from Qatar’s al-Udeid atmosphere bottom in a tellurian fight on extremism.
The contrariety in images illustrates since tiny yet abounding Qatar is an intriguing actor in what President Barack Obama says will be a prolonged conflict to stop and eventually destroy a Islamic State organisation in Iraq and Syria.
Qatar plays an outsize purpose as a U.S. troops partner. It gained open regard from Obama for brokering a argumentative understanding that liberated Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban chains in May in sell for a recover of 5 comparison Taliban officials who had been detained for years during a U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba. Qatar betrothed Obama it would keep a 5 underneath watch for one year, nonetheless they would afterwards be giveaway to leave. The Obama administration also praised Qatar for a purpose in securing a recover of nonconformist warrant Peter Theo Curtis.
But Qatar also has a repute as a believer of Islamist groups in displeasure in Washington. Some in Congress consider Qatar of funneling income to Islamic State militants, yet a State Department says a U.S. has no justification of it.
Qatari officials in Doha had no evident criticism for this story, yet a supervision has unquestionably denied that it backs a Islamic State group. Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah pronounced final month that his nation “does not support nonconformist groups, including ISIS, in any way.”
Western analysts contend Qatar is attempting a infrequently ungainly balancing act between a enterprise for good family with a United States and a efforts to say change closer to home.
“Qatar is always looking for a angle, and that’s unequivocally a best approach to explain it,” pronounced Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department counterterrorism coordinator who now leads Dartmouth’s Dickey Center for International Understanding. “By carrying connectors that are so broad, so far-reaching ranging, it can put itself during a core of usually about each issue.”
Qatar gives a home to Khaled Mashaal, banished personality of Hamas, a Palestinian belligerent classification deliberate by a U.S. to be a militant group. But Qatar also has confirmed ties to Hamas’ enemy, Israel. And to Islamist groups including a Muslim Brotherhood for that other Gulf states like Saudi Arabia have tiny tolerance.
“This is a tiny and rich nation that is perplexing to say change 360 degrees,” pronounced Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of invulnerability for process and now arch executive officer of a Center for a New American Security.
“They are hedging their bets and perplexing to make certain they have change no matter who comes out on top” in a multifaceted onslaught for energy in a Middle East, she added. Asked either she believes Qatar has indeed supposing income to a Islamic State group, she pronounced there is during slightest a widespread notice that it has.
On a other hand, Qatar was among 10 Arab nations that final week publicly permitted Obama’s joining to lessen and eventually destroy a Islamic State group. The 10 betrothed to stop a upsurge of unfamiliar fighters and appropriation for a militants, countermand their nonconformist beliefs and yield charitable aid. Some have offering to join in airstrikes.
Qatar is a thumb-like dried member projecting into a executive Persian Gulf from a Arabian peninsula. It began building closer troops family with a United States during a 1991 Gulf War. Just weeks after American army defeated Baghdad in Apr 2003, U.S. Central Command changed a informal atmosphere operations core from Prince Sultan atmosphere bottom in Saudi Arabia to al-Udeid, about 20 miles from Doha, a capital.
Qatar also is a vital customer of U.S. modernized weaponry. In July, for example, Qatar sealed an $11 billion package understanding for a squeeze of U.S.-made Apache conflict helicopters and Patriot and Javelin air-defense weapons.
Although it hosts U.S. troops bases, it has pressured Washington not to publicly acknowledge that it flies fight missions from al-Udeid atmosphere base. Like other Persian Gulf allies, Qatar’s leaders don’t wish a Pentagon to ventilate that fact, since they are leery of being seen as too friendly with Washington. The U.S. has complied, disappearing to endorse publicly that B-1 bombers and other U.S. warplanes are handling from Qatar’s al-Udeid. Nonetheless, it’s an open tip that U.S. planes there fly surveillance, refueling and other missions over Iraq.
The Air Force has publicly concurred that C-17 and C-130 load planes during al-Udeid forsaken food and H2O to replaced Yazidis around Sinjar in northern Iraq in Aug as a centerpiece of a charitable mission.
Even so, Flournoy pronounced Qatar shouldn’t consider a U.S. would endure any turn of Qatari bid to support Islamic nonconformist groups.
“They shouldn’t overreach their precedence (in terms of) hosting a U.S. military,” she said. Referring to a atmosphere operations core during al-Udeid, she said, “It is a really useful trickery to have, yet it is not a usually place we can put it; it is not unfit to move. So this is a good impulse for Qatar to step behind and examination their strategy.”
A congressional help pronounced some lawmakers have begun to seeking about a feasibility of relocating a base. The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not certified to publicly plead a issue, pronounced it’s not something that a administration is actively considering. But some members of Congress are doubt either a U.S. should have a bottom there as good as a new arms understanding with a nation suspected of ancillary Hamas and Islamic extremists.
Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press author Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.