Once again, Qatar’s foreign ministry has gone beyond the borders of this Gulf Coast country in an attempt to resolve a regional crisis that could become an international crisis.
Speaking during a media briefing held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Doha, Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari highlighted Qatar’s involvement in facilitating constructive dialogue between Iran and the international community.
He said a recent visit of the Minister of State Mohammed bin Saleh al-Khulaifi to Tehran was part of a series of continuous engagements between the two countries.
Al-Ansari emphasized that Qatar remains steadfast in its positive approach, offering proposals and facilitating meetings between Western and Iranian officials in Doha.
He added that the country aims to break down the overarching nuclear issue into manageable topics, addressing them separately while standing firm on certain points.
In June, Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met Qatar’s Emir in Doha over what may have been related to reported indirect talks with the United States. Qatar, along with Oman, has stepped in to mediate and facilitate discussions between the U.S. and Iran since the Vienna talks, which began in April 2021 as an attempt to salvage the nuclear agreement, have encountered obstacles and stalled last August.
Politicians in Qatar
Iran’s nuclear program is a tough nut to crack. But just a few years ago, Qatar’s foreign ministry helped crack an even tougher nut in another MENA (Middle East and North Africa) country that was vital to U.S. interests.
American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad became the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation in 2018. He was tasked with finding a way to end a war that had reached a stalemate, and everyone wanted to end it. His efforts eventually bore fruit. But in politics, “eventually” is often a very long time.
Turmoil in the Afghan government and concerns over prisoner-of-war exchange provisions delayed the start of talks for several months. In fact, at one point, Taliban negotiators walked out over the prisoner exchange issue.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators solved this dilemma by excluding Afghanistan from the peace talks. With that obstacle removed, representatives from the United States and the Taliban quickly signed the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan on February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar.
The agreement stipulated fighting restrictions for both the U.S. and the Taliban and provided for the withdrawal of all NATO forces from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban’s counter-terrorism commitments. The U.S. agreed to an initial reduction of its force level from 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days, followed by a full withdrawal within 14 months if the Taliban kept its commitments. The United States also committed to closing five military bases within 135 days and expressed its intent to end economic sanctions on the Taliban by August 27, 2020. Significantly, the agreement required the United States to sharply curtail air strikes. At that point, American air power was basically propping up the shaky Afghan government and even shakier Afghan National Security Forces.
Despite the fact that the Doha Accords basically sold out the Afghan people, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the accords. Pakistan, China, India, and Russia also independently supported it.
The ANDSF was ill-prepared to sustain security following a U.S. withdrawal. While insurgent attacks against the Afghan security forces surged in the aftermath of the deal, which killed thousands of people, agreed-upon withdrawals continued. By January 2021, just 2,500 US troops remained in the country, and NATO forces fully evacuated by the end of that summer.
The proverbial last plane out took off on August 30, 2021, as Kabul fell and the Taliban took control of the country by force.
Contractors in Qatar
Politicians rely on a supportive infrastructure, and so do the tens of thousands of servicemembers stationed in Qatar. The sprawling Al Udeid Air Base, the headquarters of the United States Central Command, is the centerpiece of this military infrastructure.
Following joint military operations during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Qatar and the United States concluded a Defense Cooperation Agreement that has been revised and expanded several times. As part of this agreement, in 1996, Qatar built the $1 billion Al Udeid Air Base. The U.S. first used the then-secret base in late September 2001, when the Air Force needed to get aircraft in position for its operations in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials publicly acknowledged the base came in March 2002, when Vice President Dick Cheney stopped there during a trip to the region with a group of reporters.
Another expansion quickly followed. In April 2003, shortly after the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Combat Air Operations Center for the Middle East moved from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia to what was then a backup headquarters in Qatar. American officials believed Qatart was a more congenial location for basing U.S. troops than Saudi Arabia.
Today, the Al Udeid Air Base is a logistics, command, and basing hub for U.S. operations in the region. Nearby Camp As Sayliyah houses significant U.S. military equipment pre-positioning and command and control facilities for the CENTCOM’s area of operations. Both Qatar and the United States have heavily invested in the construction and expansion of these facilities since the mid-1990s. As operations continue in the region, U.S. and partner nation facilities in Qatar and elsewhere have received higher use in recent years.
Qatar and the United States divide maintenance responsibilities at Al Udeid, which is the largest American military installation in the Middle East. American contractors do much of the work, so assets like the Army Corp of Engineers may be used elsewhere.
Injury Compensation Available
Although Al Udeid is a very secure base, mostly due to the efforts of private military security contractors, construction contractors still risk serious injury every time they punch the clock.
Hearing loss is a good example. The constant roar of planes taking off and landing is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss but not loud enough to trigger mandatory hearing protection rules. It’s also not loud enough for contractors to fully appreciate the risk.
If doctors intervene early, hearing loss is easily manageable. Today’s hearing aids are incredibly advanced. But doctors often do not get a head start. Very few people have their hearing checked if they must turn up the TV volume.
If the hearing loss or other injury is deployment-related, Defense Base Act medical benefits are usually available, whether the victim needs a hearing aid or radical eardrum surgery. These benefits are also available if a non-work incident, like an off-duty car crash, causes illness or injury.
The Supreme Court has consistently held that DBA victims must establish a nexus (indirect connection) between deployment and illness. If Tom was hurt in a Doha market during a suicide bomber attack, DBA benefits are available. His visit to the market was indirectly related to his work as a private military contractor.
For more information about other DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.