On Monday, Qatar announced that it would invest $1.8 billion to upgrade Al Udeid Air Base. Al Udeid is the biggest U.S.-used base in the Middle East and is home to the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Central Forward Command and Central Command’s Forward Headquarters.
The expansion of the base comes as part of an effort by Qatar to deepen its strategic and cooperative partnership with the United States in the ongoing fight against terrorism in the Middle East.
Since May, when the U.S. began Operation Roundup – focused on accelerating the dismantling of ISIL organizational structures in Iraq and Syria – American and coalition forces have increased military pressure in the region. In the last week, “coalition military forces [have] conducted 24 strikes, consisting of 40 engagements, in Iraq and Syria.” The planned upgrades at Al Udeid will allow the U.S. to continue to use the base as its main launching point for the high volume of ongoing operations in the region.
Investment in Al Udeid also signifies the push Qatar is making to demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the United States amid a continuing dispute with neighboring Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Close ties with the U.S. provide security for Qatar, as both Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. also are U.S. strategic partners in the Middle East.
In Qatar’s role as a strategic partner, in addition to providing basing for the U.S., the Gulf country buys significant amounts of American military equipment, including the recent purchase of thirty-six F-15 fighter jets for $6 billion and over $900 million worth of missiles, weapons systems and logistics equipment.
However, providing basing in the region is the a key example of the U.S.-Qatar relationship. Al Udeid, which currently hosts more than 10,000 American military personnel, is the only base in the Middle East that allows the U.S. to fly bomber planes, and is the product of around $8 billion in Qatari investment.
This most recent investment at the base will see the construction of “new family housing facilities for more than 200 officers and other infrastructure enlargements, along with “operational” improvements.”
Such improvements indicate that in coming years the U.S.-Qatari partnership will only continue to deepen. Qatari government officials have made clear that they hope the U.S. will continue to make use of Al Udeid and of two new naval bases being built in the next five years. The U.S. is likely to do so. Qatar has played an integral role in providing bases for the U.S. to stage its fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria and will likely continue to do so as long as the U.S. pursues threats in that region.