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Country Reports on Terrorism 2021: Qatar

(February 27, 2023)

Overview:  The United States and Qatar continued to increase counterterrorism cooperation, building on progress made after the U.S. Secretary of State and Qatari foreign minister signed a counterterrorism MOU in 2017.  During the November U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue’s Counterterrorism Session, the two governments reviewed the significant progress made on counterterrorism cooperation and committed to maintaining ongoing momentum for 2022.  Qatar is an active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and all the Defeat-ISIS working groups.  Qatar facilitated U.S. military operations in the region and hosts roughly 8,000 U.S. service members at military installations critical to Defeat-ISIS efforts.

2021 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no reported terrorist incidents in Qatar in 2021.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  There were no significant changes in counterterrorism legislation.

Qatar maintains an interagency National Counterterrorism Committee (NCTC) with representatives from more than 10 government agencies.  The NCTC formulates Qatar’s counterterrorism policy, ensuring interagency coordination, fulfilling Qatar’s counterterrorism-related obligations under international conventions, and participating in multilateral conferences on terrorism.  U.S. officials regularly met with the NCTC chairman to discuss overall counterterrorism cooperation.  The Qatar State Security Bureau (SSB) maintained an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal terrorism-related activities.  The Ministry of Interior and the Internal Security Force (ISF) continue to participate in structured counterterrorism training and exercises, including with U.S. agencies.

Qatar and DHS signed an agreement and a memorandum of cooperation in 2021 bolstering the ability to share certain biometric and visa data.  The United States and Qatar continued to partner on terrorist screening and aviation security.  Ministry of Interior authorities cooperate with officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration, and Homeland Security Investigations to screen the near 40 million travelers who transit Hamad International Airport annually.

U.S. technical assistance to Qatari law enforcement and judicial agencies increased during 2021.  The U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), State, and the Treasury, as well as the FBI, led or participated in several capacity building initiatives involving the Ministry of Interior, the ISF, the SSB, the Public Prosecution, the Central Bank, and other Qatari agencies.  A DOJ resident legal adviser has been stationed in Qatar since 2018, providing technical assistance to Qatar’s counterterrorism efforts and building prosecutorial capacity.

U.S. Central Command and Embassy Doha coordinated multiple virtual planning conferences with their Qatar counterparts from the Ministry of Interior, the ISF, and Qatar Joint Special Forces, for Invincible Sentry 21 (IS-21), a bilateral counterterrorism exercise that took place March 21-26 in  Doha.  The exercise tested Qatar’s tactical capabilities, command, control, coordination, and decision making within and between governments, agencies, and ministries in preparation for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup.  The U.S. interagency Foreign Emergency Support Team also participated in this bilateral Department of Defense Combatant Command exercise.  Additionally, Qatari explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) personnel trained with Diplomatic Security’s electronic countermeasure instructors and U.S. Air Force EOD personnel from Al Udeid Air Base to enhance commercial electronic countermeasure capabilities, explosive identification, and post-blast investigations.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Qatar is a member of MENAFATF.  Qatar’s FIU is a member of the Egmont Group.  Qatar is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition Counter-ISIS Financing Working Group and the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC).

In collaboration with other TFTC member states, Qatar in July sanctioned six individuals and entities affiliated with ISIS terror-support networks in the region.

In September, Qatar took coordinated action — with the United States — against a major Hizballah financial network based in the Persian Gulf region, designating, under its updated AML/CFT regime, seven individuals and one entity for their role in the financing of terrorism.  This represents one of the most significant joint actions the United States has taken with a Gulf Cooperation Council partner to date.

Qatar continued to maintain restrictions, imposed in 2017, on the overseas activities of Qatari charities, requiring all such activity to be conducted through one of four approved charities — to protect charitable giving from terrorist financing abuse.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Qatar’s primary CVE strategy remained investment in education, sports diplomacy, and increasing economic opportunities for youth around the globe, largely through the Qatar Foundation and related organizations, such as Silatech and Education Above All.  Since 2020, Qatar has hosted UNOCT’s first International Hub on Behavioral Insights to Counterterrorism in the Middle East and North Africa, to better understand the underlying roots of violent extremism and determine the best use of sports as a CVE tool.  Qatar has made strides in addressing state-sourced internal support for educational and religious content espousing intolerance, discrimination, sectarianism, and violence, although examples can still be found in textbooks and disseminated through satellite television and other media.

Qatar was a major funder of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and sits on its Governing Board of Directors.  The Qatar Fund for Development supported GCERF’s efforts to build awareness among community leaders about the impact of terrorist radicalization and recruitment, to share information on how to respond to terrorism, to promote peace through community engagement activities, and to provide educational initiatives.

Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) supported English-language programming in MEHE schools to counter terrorist influence and messaging.  The MEHE undersecretary, who also serves as chairman of the semigovernmental Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue, requested recommendations from the Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom on educational consultants or Fulbright scholars to assist with further revisions of Qatar’s Islamic studies public school textbooks to increase understanding of religious pluralism and tolerance.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Qatar is an active participant in the UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League.  Qatar also is a member of the GCTF and the TFTC.  Qatar was reincorporated into GCC activities in January, following a three-and-a-half-year pause owing to the 2017 to 2021 Persian Gulf rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.  Since June, Qatar has hosted the UNOCT Program Office on Parliamentary Engagement, which seeks to strengthen the contributions, coordination, and capacity of parliaments at national, regional, and global levels to enhance international efforts against terrorism.

Source: Country Reports on Terrorism 2021, U.S. Department of State, (February 27, 2023).