Security

US, Qatari forces conclude joint defence drill

By Omar Rashid in Doha

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Two Qatari Mirage 2000s (L), a US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber (C) and F-15E Strike Eagles fly in formation during a Joint Air Defense Exercise on February 19th. [File] 

Defence and security co-operation between Qatar and the US has seen a recent expansion of collaboration, training and information exchange in the arena of counter-terrorism in the face of regional threats, security experts said.

The understanding between the two countries regarding an expansion of the presence of US forces at al-Udeid air base, which started to be discussed last year, could support stability in the region, they said.

The US understanding of defence and security requirements in Qatar and its contribution to the modernisation of equipment has helped maintain security and stability in Qatar and the region.

The joint US and Qatari air defence exercise (JADEX), which concluded February 21st, was a three-day exercise which highlighted the US commitment to working with Qatar and its Middle East partners to enhance security and serve common interests, experts said.

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Aircraft perform during a military parade to mark Qatar's national day celebration, on December 18th in Doha. [Karim Jaafar/AFP] 

This is the first time a US B-1B Lancer has been integrated into JADEX, alongside US F-15Es and four Qatari Mirage 2000s.

Mutual benefit

The US-Qatar strategic dialogue has advanced bilateral relations to wider prospects of defence, security and economic co-operation, Qatari strategic expert Rashid al-Hudaifi told Al-Mashareq.

This will serve to strengthen the course of relations in coming years, he said.

"The joint US and Qatari air defence exercise supports opportunities to strengthen the US relationship with the Qatari air force," he said, adding that it allows participants to work together as one team to increase interoperability and ensure the defence of regional assets.

"The defence and security co-operation between the two countries allows us to capitalise on the US's vast experience and capabilities, and strengthens our defence capabilities against external threats," he said.

This will improve regional stability and security, he added.

"The continuous dialogue between the two countries also allows them to exchange views and ideas on many common issues," he said.

Among these is "the reunification of the parties in Afghanistan, in which Doha plays a significant role that is appreciated by the US administration", he said.

Consultations between the two countries also touch on regional issues, such as the situation in Syria, Iraq and other regional hotspots, al-Hudaifi said.

Military drills between the US and Qatar enable each side to become familiar with how the other operates, and make the development and implementation of emergency plans easier, Qatari military expert Riyad al-Ali had told Al-Mashareq.

This exercise demonstrates the growing military relationship between the US and Qatar, he said.

Combating terrorism

The joint drills the US conducts with Gulf Co-operation Council partners and others "confirm it is working hard as a reliable partner to guarantee the security and stability of the region", said security expert Abdul Rahman al-Sakhman.

This shows the US supports programmes and plans "that will tackle any potential threats to one of the most important energy production areas in the world", he told Al-Mashareq.

Qatar, with its vision that supports security and stability, is working hard to combat terrorism alongside the US and the other countries in the region, he said.

The partnership with Qatar also allows the US to "make remarkable efforts to combat extremism and terrorism through al-Udeid airbase", he added.

Al-Udeid houses thousands of US troops participating in the international coalition battling state and non-state actors.

This is the largest US military presence in the Middle East, al-Sakhman said.

On January 13th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar regarding the expansion and renovation of the airbase.

The US military capability and its integrated operations with its allies and partners demonstrate "its ability to deter aggression", he said.

This makes those who seek to threaten the region's security "think twice before carrying out any hostile operations that could destabilise peace and security", he said.

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