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US-Qatar military co-operation key to regional security

By Hassan al-Obeidi in Baghdad

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Qatari Emiri Land Forces and US military leadership receive the mission brief for military exercise Eastern Action, on October 31st. [File]

The relationship between the US Army and the Qatari Emiri Land Forces is continuing to strengthen, as the two sides recently participated in military drills aimed at enhancing regional security.

The latest Eastern Action exercises opened October 31st and concluded November 18th. More than 100 service members with US and Qatari forces participated in the training.

"The US partnership with the Qatari Emiri Land Forces is an important component of deterring aggression from regional adversaries," said US Army Brig. Gen. Steven T. King, a Task Force Spartan deputy commanding general.

"The ability to engage with our partners in exercises like Eastern Action is a key component to ensuring interoperability and standing strong together in support of regional security," he said.

The goal of Eastern Action, an annual command post exercise with US and Qatari battalion staff, is to strengthen relationships between the two militaries while assessing capabilities, according to the US National Guard.

"Working side-by-side presents a unique opportunity to learn from our Qatari Emiri Land Forces partners as we share our tactics, techniques and procedures with them," King said. "The interaction makes for a rich learning environment."

Eastern Action opened ahead of a visit to Washington in early November by Qatari Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, during which he met with his US counterpart Mark Esper and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The officials discussed ways to strengthen military and intelligence co-operation between the US and Qatar, according to the Qatari Ministry of Defence.

Earlier this year, US and Qatari air forces participated in the Joint Air Defence Exercise (JADEX) at al-Udeid air base in Doha.

JADEX, which ran February 19th to 21st, highlighted the US commitment to working with Qatar and its Middle East partners to enhance security and serve common interests.

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

Pompeo on January 13th signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar regarding the expansion and renovation of the air base.

Successful security partners

Qatar-US relations are characterised by strategic partnership and co-operation, as Doha hosts the US Central Command and oversees US air operations in several countries of the region as part of the war on terror, security analysts say.

"It has become clear that the countries that have a close partnership with the US are the most stable and secure in the region," said Ahmed al-Hamdani, a researcher and member of al-Sharq Centre for Security and Strategic Studies.

"This is reinforced by the US commitment to its partnership with them."

"The recurrent training exercises involving manoeuvres and the sharing and exchange of information between the US, Qatar and other Gulf countries cannot be isolated from the security of the Gulf region as a whole," he said.

It sends "a message that Washington does not abandon its allies, and this is very important, especially at this time", he told Al-Mashareq.

Such exercises and partnerships serve as a deterrent to threats from regional state and non-state actors, he said, in reference to Iran and its proxies.

Doha and Washington have proven to be "successful partners" on all levels of military and security co-operation, especially in recent years in the war against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), said former Qatar University law lecturer Ali bin Obeid.

"Some military and security activities have a swift and positive impact on security and the current balance in the region, and also affirm the US commitment to its partners and co-operation with them at all times," he told Al-Mashareq.

Qatari journalist Mohammed Tayeh said he witnessed one of the joint co-operation activities with the October 2018 visit by the largest US naval ship to ever come to Qatar as part of the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

The naval ship took part in a training and co-operation exercise with Qatar's Navy and Coast Guard.

"The military and security co-operation between Washington, Qatar and the Gulf states has certainly proven to be the primary deterrent barrier against any potential threat," he told Al-Mashareq.

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