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The New Arab

Qatar plans massive expansion of US military base at Al Udeid

Al Udeid is currently the largest US military base in the Middle East. [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 January, 2018

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Al Udeid is currently the largest US military base in the Middle East and is critical to US air operations in the region
Qatar is planning a huge expansion of an American airbase in the country which currently holds around 11,000 military personnel, Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah said on Monday.

Al Udeid is currently the largest US military base in the Middle East and is critical to US air operations in the region.

The planned expansion will add 200 housing units for officers and their families, al-Attiyah said.

"We have a big plan to expand Al Udeid to make it permanent," Al Attiyah said at an event held by US-based think-tank the Heritage Foundation.

"Colleagues in the US Department of Defence are reluctant to mention the word permanent, but we are working from our side to make it permanent.

"We are planning for a 2040 Vision in the military-to-military cooperation with the United States in all aspects whether it is in the Air Force, Navy or the land force."

The US moved its military operations to Qatar from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia in 2003 shortly after the invasion of Iraq.

Last year Qatari and US armed forces held joint training exercises in Doha which American officials said reinforced "the enduring military-to-military" partnership between the two countries.

"Qatar is strategically placed. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria - these are all hotspots in the region. I am not exaggerating when I say 80 percent of aerial refuelling in the region is from Udeid," al-Attiyah said.

"We're the ones that keep your birds flying."

Attiyah also stressed that Qatar is keen to the end GCC crisis and that the US could play a pivotal role.

"At the moment, I think the only person who can solve the GCC crisis is President Trump. And I think he can solve it in a phone call," the Qatari defence minister said.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and economic ties with gas-rich Qatar, accusing it of links to extremist groups.

Saudi Arabia then issued Qatar with a list of demands, including shutting down media outlets Al Jazeera and London-based The New Arab, curbing relations with Iran, and closing a Turkish military base in the emirate.

Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott is aimed at curtailing its sovereignty.

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