Mattis, Tillerson Co-Host First U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue

Qatar is a strong and valued military partner to the United States, Defense Secretary James. N. Mattis said yesterday at the inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Department.

The secretary made his remarks in a news conference following the dialogue, along with State Department Secretary Rex W. Tillerson, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, and Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah.

Mattis and Tillerson co-hosted the opening session of the dialogue.

“The United States enjoys a longstanding defense relationship with Qatar,” Mattis said.

“Even in the midst of its own current challenges, Qatar and the United States maintain excellent military-to-military relations, hosting Al Udeid Air Base, home to our Combined Air Operations Center, the [U.S. Air Forces Central Command Forward Headquarters] and U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters, providing critical counterterrorism support to the defeat [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] coalition and [President Donald J. Trump’s] South Asia strategy,” he said.

Longstanding Support

The secretary said the United States is grateful to Qatar for its longstanding support of America’s continuing commitment to regional security, one that includes information sharing and counterterrorism training.

“It should be noted that just this last week, the Qatari air force completed its first two C-17 [Globemaster III] flights from the Gulf to Afghanistan and back, providing logistical support to the NATO counter-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan,” Mattis said.

And, a united Gulf Cooperation Council “bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on countering terrorism, defeating [ISIS], and countering the spread of Iran’s malign influence,” he said. “It is thus critical that the GCC recovers its cohesion as the proud Gulf nations return to mutual support through a peaceful resolution that provides for enhanced regional stability and prosperity.”

“I look forward to a lasting Qatar-U.S. security relationship, a relationship that will continue to bolster our efforts against common security threats and violent extremism,” Mattis said.

The four officials then signed three memoranda. The first established the annual convening of the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue to continue building on the close partnership between the two countries. The second was a joint declaration outlining the United States’ cooperation with Qatar on matters of shared regional and security interests, and the third was a memorandum of understanding that created a framework for the cooperation between the United States and Qatar to combat human trafficking.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk @MoonCronkDoD)