Qatar is running a major expansion programme at its Al-Udeid military airbase, according to the Qatar News Agency (QNA).
The expansion project “intends to underscore Qatar’s ongoing commitment to deepening its strategic military relations with the US”, the QNA said. The works will include the construction of building barracks and housing that currently hold more than 10,000 US personnel and other coalition militaries.
“The State of Qatar, along with its strategic US ally, is working on drawing up a roadmap for the future of bilateral relations, including the addition of Al-Udeid Air Base to the list of US permanent military bases,” QNA said.
According to Jane’s by IHS Markit, satellite imagery has evidenced that construction work is taking place in the southeast corner of the base, which began in 2017. The base is located some 30 kilometres southwest of the capital Doha.
HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs laid the foundation stone for the expansion project of Al Udeid Air Base with the participation of Brig. Gen. Jason Armagost, commander of the air expeditionary wing at Al Udeid Air Base. pic.twitter.com/bw2qlV4LNF
— Qatar News Agency (@QNAEnglish) July 24, 2018
But the US Pentagon shrugged off the significance of the military base developments. “It is premature to discuss aspects of a potential base expansion at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar,” Lieutenant Commander Rebecca Rebarich said in a statement.
“The US military is working with the Qatari Ministry of Defence on further details of the proposal to help us to plan appropriately and ensure we will use any new facilities effectively.”
Gulf Crisis factor
The Al-Udeid expansion comes amid a year-long air, land and sea blockade levied by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain over allegations that Doha supports terrorism and extremism. Although Qatar categorically denied the allegations, Doha has shown resilience in ramping up security.
Meanwhile, the US is vying to “build some momentum” towards ending the blockade before a possible summit in the autumn with Gulf leaders.
Adding to this, Turkey, a strong ally of Qatar beefed up its military presence by deploying 100 troops to Al-Udeid Air Base since the Saudi-led blockade.