It’s time to end the Washington myth that the United States must tread carefully in confronting Qatar over its support for terrorism in order to avoid losing access to a strategic US air base, according to a high-ranked general who assisted in setting up the new air operations hub at Al-Udeid Air Base near Doha in 2001.
In an op-ed published by Fox News, Charles Wald, a retired US Air Force general and former deputy commander of the US European Command, said that Qatar has a choice to make. It can choose to be a US ally that confronts all terrorists and extremists and joins the US in actually aligning on national security issues against Iran and its proxies – or it can continue a two-faced foreign policy.
The general called on Washinton to put Qatar’s rulers on notice that “if they don’t shape up, US can easily ship out.”
In addition, he added “whatever path Qatar chooses, American policymakers need to remember that the US has never been and never will be dependent on a military presence at Al-Udeid Air Base.”
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Wald said that Qatar provided funds to Muslim Brotherhood affiliates whose interests bin Laden shared and also fomented radicalism through Al-Jazeera and Qatari-based and sponsored clerics, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
He added that there is far more evidence, especially looking at Qatar’s real foreign policy – as evidenced by Al-Jazeera’s coverage – being played out in proxy fights across the region.
Today, as policymakers in the Trump administration and Congress become increasingly alarmed by Qatar’s schizophrenic foreign policy, “some have forgotten how we arrived at Al-Udeid,” reminds Wald. “They fear that by pressuring Qatar, we could lose a supposedly indispensable national security asset. But history reminds us that nothing could be farther from the truth.”
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Al-Udeid is not critical to US national security, states Wald. The base is a matter of convenience in a region with many other options of equal convenience. The US could expand its footprint at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the UAE or could even return to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the Pentagon budget has recently allocated $143 million for upgrades to a strategic air base in Jordan.
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