Turkey expands military base in Qatar

The Qatar-Turkey Combined Joint Force Command has been active since October 2015 at the Tariq bin Ziyad military base outside Doha, comprising commando platoons, military engineering units, indirect fire support teams, and air force and naval liaison teams in what is basically a mechanized battalion battle group involving about 300 Turkish soldiers.

From the outset, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani agreed on a rapid expansion of the base, but foot-dragging by the Qatari bureaucracy and problems related to location assignment have delayed the enlargement.

According to recent reports in the Turkish media, however, the facility is on course to expand in October with the addition of an airbase and a military port. As a result, the Turkish contingent will grow into a brigade task force of about 2,000 soldiers, including army, air force, navy and special forces elements. Erdogan and Thani are reportedly scheduled to attend the inauguration ceremony.

The Qatari base has been the focus of increased Turkish attention in recent months, as evidenced by a number of high-level visits, joint trainings and war games. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited the base in December, inspecting the facility. A visit by Vice President Fuat Oktay followed in March.

Cooperation between the Turkish and Qatari militaries has notably intensified since last year. In February 2018, Turkey’s Gokceada frigate visited the Doha port as Turkish and Qatari naval forces conducted the first in a series of joint trainings. In a string of drills in April, all of them in Qatar, troops from the two countries held live-fire field exercises, commandos had small-unit action trainings as part of border security exercises, and the air forces conducted the Falcon-21 drills, with three Turkish F-16 jets flying in Qatari skies for the first time.

In other initiatives this year, Turkish and Qatari special forces have held joint counterterror drills, and the Turkish Gendarmerie Command has offered training to Qatari security forces in the field of internal security.

The defense industry is another area of expanding cooperation, with Turkey growing into a major supplier of military equipment for Qatar.