DOHA (Middle East Eye) – Qatar has become increasingly frustrated with the Biden administration’s delay in responding to a request made last year to purchase advanced armed drones from the U.S., the Wall Street Journal has reported, citing officials in Doha.
The government of Qatar, which recently helped evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans following the U.S.’s controversial withdrawal and has long partnered with U.S. counterterrorism operations in the region, made the formal request to buy four armed MQ-9B Predator drones in 2020.
“The frustration from our perspective is that there is no clear indication as to why there is a delay on our request,” one Qatari government official said, as quoted by the WSJ.
The State Department has approved similar requests from other allies, including the United Arab Emirates, but has not commented on what might have stalled Qatar’s approval for the $600m drone deal.
U.S. officials have long expressed concern over Qatar’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Hamas movement and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Qatar, however, has stressed its role in supporting the U.S. in Afghanistan in recent months, pointing to its efforts to help mitigate the chaotic withdrawal of American forces this summer. Doha has also stepped in to oversee airport operations in Kabul - a role Turkey had been after - which has enabled some access to the country, now under the control of the Taliban, from the outside world.
“The recent evacuation operations in Afghanistan proves that Qatar always stands ready to support its allies and for the purposes of security and stability,” the official continued.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is set to visit the White House next month, with the arms sale expected to be near the top of his agenda.
The U.S. State Department does not comment on proposed military sales or transfers, routinely referring instead to a longstanding policy to first formally notify Congress.
The drones, if approved, would give the Qataris a more robust capability in the region. Local officials have said that the U.S.-supplied drones would be used to conduct surveillance on vast natural-gas facilities to prevent terrorist activity and in other areas to keep an eye on threats posed by terrorist groups. Doha is also the host for next year’s World Cup which Qatari officials have said requires extra vigilance against terrorist activity.