US reaches deal to extend military presence at Qatari air base — source

US Air Force personnel load humanitarian aid supplies onto a plane bound for Beirut, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, August 6, 2020. (US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Heather Fejerang)
US Air Force personnel load humanitarian aid supplies onto a plane bound for Beirut, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, August 6, 2020. (US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Heather Fejerang)

WASHINGTON — The United States has reached a deal to extend its military presence at a base in Qatar for another 10 years, a source familiar with the matter tells Reuters.

The base in question is the Al Udeid Air Base, which is located in the desert southwest of Doha and hosts the largest US military facility in the Middle East, the source says, asking to not be identified.

The development was reported first by CNN. The US Department of Defense doesn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The tiny Gulf state has played a key role in mediation talks with Hamas and Israeli officials in relation to the war in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages captured by the Palestinian Islamist terror group in its devastating October 7 cross-border attack on Israel, in which some 1,200 people were killed and around 240 taken hostage.

US President Joe Biden has regularly spoken with the emir of Qatar since October 7 on securing the release of hostages held by Hamas and on boosting aid to Gaza, where Israel’s assault since the Hamas attack has killed over 22,000 Palestinians, according to Hamas health authorities. The figure, which doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, cannot be verified independently and is also believed to include Gazans killed by errant rockets launched by terrorists in the Strip.

There has also been criticism of Qatar by some in the US Congress over Hamas’s presence in the country. A bipartisan group of 113 US lawmakers on October 16 sent a letter to Biden asking him to put pressure on countries who support Hamas, including Qatar.

Qatar is also a major non-NATO US ally, a designation granted by the United States to close, non-NATO allies that have strategic working relationships with the US military.

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