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 CT MOU in 2017. During the September U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue’s Virtual Counterterrorism Session, the two governments reviewed the significant progress made on CT cooperation and committed to maintaining ongoing momentum for 2021. 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 10,000 U.S. service members at two military installations critical to Defeat-ISIS efforts.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Qatar in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2019, Qatari authorities passed a new AML/CFT law that included language on targeted financial sanctions. In 2019 the Qatari government finalized new CT legislation that enhanced penalties for committing acts of terror and enabled the prosecution of Qataris who commit acts of terror. Both laws went into effect in February.
Qatar maintains an interagency National Counterterrorism Committee (NCTC) with representatives from more than 10 government agencies. The NCTC formulates Qatar’s CT policy, ensuring interagency coordination, fulfilling Qatar’s CT-related obligations under international conventions, and participating in multilateral conferences on terrorism. U.S. officials met regularly with the chairman of the NCTC to discuss overall CT cooperation. The Qatar State Security Bureau (SSB) maintained an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal terrorism-related activities. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Internal Security Force (ISF) remained well positioned to respond to incidents with rapid reaction forces that routinely engage in structured CT training and exercises, including with U.S. agencies.
The United States and Qatar continued to partner on terrorist screening and aviation security. MOI authorities continued to cooperate with officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Agency to enhance the capability 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 2020. 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 MOI, the ISF, the SSB, the Public Prosecution, the Central Bank, and other Qatari agencies. A DOJ resident legal advisor has been stationed in Qatar since 2018, providing technical assistance to Qatar’s CT efforts and building prosecutorial capacity.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and Embassy Doha coordinated multiple virtual planning conferences with their Qatar counterparts from the MOI, the ISF, and Qatar Joint Special Forces, for Invincible Sentry 21, a bilateral CT exercise. The exercise will take place in Doha in 2021 in preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and will test a whole-of-government response to possible critical incidents associated with the quadrennial tournament.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Qatar is a member of MENAFATF. Its FIU, the Qatar Financial Information Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group. Qatar is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS CIFG and the Riyadh-based TFTC.
In collaboration with other TFTC member states, in July, Qatar sanctioned six individuals and entities affiliated with ISIS terror-support networks in the region.
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: The core of Qatar’s 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. In December, Qatar partnered with UNOCT to open the 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 are still 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 Ministry of Education 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 International Religious Freedom Office on educational consultants 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 United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League. Qatar is also a member of the GCTF and TFTC. The country was active in GCC activities, but the Gulf dispute that broke out in 2017 froze most GCC-wide engagements.