The Robust Counterterrorism Partnership between the US and Qatar

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The US and Qatar continued to improve counterterrorism cooperation. The partnership and building on advancement were created after the United States Secretary of State and Qatari foreign minister marked a counterterrorism MOU in 2017. After that, the two governments reviewed the significant progress made in counterterrorism cooperation and dedicated to maintaining ongoing momentum for 2022. Qatar actively partakes in the Global Coalition to Overpower ISIS and all the Defeat-ISIS working groups. Qatar encouraged U.S. military operations in the region and hosted approximately 8,000 U.S. service members at military facilities critical to Defeat-ISIS efforts.

Qatar holds an interagency National Counterterrorism Committee (NCTC) with representatives from more than ten state agencies. The NCTC prepares Qatar’s counterterrorism policy, providing interagency coordination, fulfilling Qatar’s counterterrorism-related commitments under international conventions, and participating in multilateral conferences on terrorism.  U.S. officials regularly interact with the NCTC chairman to discuss prevalent counterterrorism cooperation.  The Qatar State Security Bureau (SSB) maintained a bold stance toward monitoring internal terrorism-related movements. The Ministry of Interior and the Internal Security Force persist in participating in structured counterterrorism training and exercises, including with U.S. agencies.

Qatar and the Department of Homeland Security signed an accord and a memorandum of cooperation in 2021, maintaining the ability to share specific biometric and visa data.  The US and Qatar persisted in partnering on terrorist screening and aviation security.  Ministry of Interior authorities collaborate with officials from the U.S. DHS’s Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration, and DHS Investigations to screen the nearly 40 million travellers who transit to Hamad International Airport annually.

U.S. technical aid to Qatari law enforcement and judicial agencies was raised in 2021. The U.S. DOJ, the Treasury, and the FBI led or partook in several capacity-building initiatives concerning the Ministry of Interior, the ISF, the SSB, the Public Prosecution, the Central Bank, and other Qatari authorities. A DOJ legal adviser has been stationed in Qatar since 2018, delivering technical assistance to Qatar’s counterterrorism efforts and building prosecutorial capacity.

U.S. Central Command and the Embassy of Doha coordinated numerous virtual planning conferences with their Qatar partners from the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Joint Special Forces for Invincible Sentry 21, a bilateral counterterrorism training in Doha. The exercise experimented with Qatar’s tactical capabilities, command, control, coordination, and decision-making within and between governments, mechanisms, and ministries in practice for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup.  

The United States interagency Foreign Emergency Support Team also partook in this bilateral Department of Defense Combatant Command exercise. Further, Qatari explosive ordinance disposal personnel prepared with Diplomatic Security’s electronic countermeasure educators and United States Air Force personnel from Al Udeid Air Base to improve commercial electronic countermeasure capabilities, explosive identification, and post-blast investigations.

Regarding Countering the Financing of Terrorism, Qatar is a member of MENA-FATF. Qatar is also a part of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition Counter-ISIS Financing Working Group and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC).

In partnership with other TFTC member states, Qatar, in July 2022, sanctioned six individuals and entities affiliated with ISIS terror-support webs in the region. Moreover, Qatar took coordinated action — with the United States — against an effective Hizballah financial network established in the Persian Gulf territory, designating, under its updated AML/CFT authority, seven individuals and one entity for their part in the financing of terrorism. 

This represents one of the most critical joint actions the US has taken with a Gulf Cooperation Council partner. Qatar persisted in maintaining restrictions, imposed in 2017, on the overseas movements of Qatari charities, requiring all such activity to be performed through one of four authorised charities — to protect charitable giving from terrorist financing abuse.

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