Washington reflects the “importance of its bilateral relationship”, and its status as a “good friend and capable partner”, the United States has decided to designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, American President Joe Biden announced on Monday during a visit of Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani to Washington DC.
At a joint press appearance with the Qatari leader, Biden said, “This past year, our partnership with Qatar has been central to many of our most vital interests — relocating tens of thousands of Afghans; maintaining stability in Gaza and providing lifesaving assistance to the Palestinians; keeping pressure on ISIS and deterring threats across the Middle East; and a lot more.”
Biden indicated that the US and Qatar had shared interests in “ensuring the stability of global energy supplies”. The US is relying on Qatar, among others, to step in with the supply of natural gas if a conflict breaks out with Russia, jeopardising Russian gas supplies to Europe.
The US president also spoke of the commercial and investment ties between the two countries, applauding a $20-plus billion order that Qatar Airways placed with Boeing on Monday.
The US has designated 18 countries, including Pakistan, as major non-NATO allies. Unlike a NATO ally, whose defence becomes the collective responsibility of the alliance, the designation does not entail a defence commitment — but it enables a country to access military and financial advantages.
Biden called Qatar’s inclusion as a major non-NATO ally “long overdue”. He subsequently sent a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate, stating, “I am making this designation in recognition of Qatar’s many years of contributions to US-led efforts in the US Central Command area of responsibility and in recognition of our own national interest in deepening bilateral defence and security cooperation with the state of Qatar.”
In a recent briefing, a senior administration official had said that the US was “incredibly grateful” to Qatar for its help on Afghanistan — including for serving as the primary transit point for 60,000 evacuees from Afghanistan and joining the US and the international community in conveying to the Taliban the need for an inclusive government and respect for human rights.
Qatar played a key role in the negotiations between the US and Taliban, though contrary to the terms of the peace process signed in Doha, the Afghan government collapsed, there was chaotic withdrawal of American troops, and the Taliban assumed absolute power after running through the country in a violent offensive last year.