Built on a flat stretch of desert about 30 kilometers southwest of Qatar’s capital Doha, the Al-Udeid airbase was once considered so sensitive that US military officials only identified it as being somewhere “in Southwest Asia”. .
Today, the sprawling center is Qatar’s strategic jewel, showcasing the Persian Gulf emirate’s close security partnership with the United States, which now considers Doha an important non-NATO ally.
At the height of the US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, more than 10,000 troops called the base and other sites in Qatar home. That number has dropped by a fifth since the Biden administration began withdrawing some forces from the Middle East, in preparation for so-called superpower competitions with China and Russia.
But Qatar has continued to pour money into the base — more than $8 billion since 2003. In Friday’s visit, Associated Press reporters saw a new barracks and mess hall, while airmen discussed other improvements along the way. He said the creation of a new task force focused on drones and other commercial battlefield technology in al-Udeid shows Washington will stay there, despite fears to the contrary.
“The US Air Force has a tremendous commitment to this region,” US Air Force Lt. Col. Erin Brilla told the Associated Press. “We stand as a sustainable potential.”
The birth and development of al-Udeid refers to the “eternal wars” following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington by al-Qaeda. When Saudi Arabia asked US forces to leave the kingdom, Qatar offered Al-Udeid, with an estimated initial cost of $1 billion.
Al-Udeed soon became the forward headquarters of US Army Central Command. Its Combined Air Operations Center oversees combat operations, surveillance flights and drones in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
Although the “Forever Wars” have ended, conflicts continue throughout the region. As tensions with Iran escalate, the US and its allies are looking for ways to counter low-cost drones used in the region by Tehran and its allied militias such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The new Air Force Task Force 99, recently deployed to Al-Udeid, is focused on countering them, or imposing the same “dilemmas” on the militias that they impose on the US when they arm allies. Forced to fire missiles. million dollars versus a $1,000 drone,” Brilla said.
This is a real world example. The Saudi military has repelled most Houthi bombardments with its US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system, which typically fires two missiles at a close target. This has become costly and inefficient, as each Patriot missile costs more than $3 million and the state’s supply has run out.
Task Force 99 follows a similar force in the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is sending drones to Middle Eastern waters. Like the Navy, the Air Force wants to focus on widely available, off-the-shelf technology that it can share with allies and not worry about losing, unlike the $32 million MQ-9 Reaper drone that were flown from Al-Udeed. past tense.
For Qatar, hosting the base provides security in a fragmented region, allowing it to challenge its neighbors. Just two years ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain boycotted Qatar, severing trade and travel ties. Iran, which shares a vast natural gas field with Qatar, lies across the waters of the Persian Gulf.
As a center shared by the Qatari Emiri Air Force, the UK Royal Air Force and Central Command, the base has C-17 transporter stands and long runways that can carry heavy bombers in the desert heat, which can be as low as 50 degrees. Celsius can be reached. Heat. It can feel like a standalone bubble with a Burger King, Pizza Hut, and gym.
Still, World Cup fever is seeping into the base, a rare dose of the outside world for US troops, who are usually more involved in away wars than Qatari distractions. Poster in Arabic promoting the World Cup. American servicemen said they often go to eight stadiums in and around Doha to cheer on the US national team when they have time, and one service member has qualified as a World Cup fan after attending seven games. Earned reputation in
“I’m so excited that we compete and put our heart and soul on the field, just like our Airmen put their heart and soul into the mission,” said Capt. Kayshell Trudell of the U.S. Air Force. It beat Iran 1-0 at the stadium earlier this week, where members of the Air Force Band sang acoustic covers.
He also said he would wear red, white and blue, cheering on the United States’ match against the Netherlands on Saturday, the country’s chance to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.
Al-Udeid’s Fox Sports Bar, the base’s main watering hole, broadcasts the tournament, allowing football-loving soldiers to follow the games. FIFA has given permission to the US Military Network of the Department of Defense to broadcast the matches.
“The World Cup is just around the corner and it’s an exciting time to be here in Qatar,” Brilla said. He added that “almost every TV” in the command center is showing the matches. He paused, apparently reflecting on the many screens that followed the sky. “Not those who monitor the aerial image, but others.”
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