The Biden administration faced pointed questioning Tuesday from lawmakers eager to understand why the White House has been so friendly to Qatar, a country that hosts the leader of a terrorist organization the United States has labeled as a threat.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism Justin Siberell began by noting the “longstanding and strong” relationship between the United States and Qatar. He noted Qatar’s ongoing counterterrorism efforts, including working convictions against terrorists, extraditing them to face justice and interdicting the financing of terrorist networks.
However, Siberell acknowledged there remains more work to do. He said the Biden administration is working with the Qatari government “on their understanding of the threats posed by terrorist organizations.”
He highlighted the State Department’s recent efforts in reminding Gulf governments, including Qatar, of their “responsibility” to prevent radicalization and extremism.
Lawmakers were skeptical of those efforts.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) called Qatar an “enabler of terror” and said that the country hosts a “core group of terrorists” who have been linked to U.S.-designated terror entities such as Hamas and al Qaeda.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked why the Biden administration would be having conversations with Qatar if the country is harboring terrorists, to which Siberell responded that the administration has been clear with its expectations. He added that while Qatar has made progress in combating terrorism, there is still more work to be done.
In conclusion, the Biden administration is looking to deepen its relationship with Qatar despite the country’s ties to terrorist groups. While the administration has made it clear that it expects Qatar to take further action in combating terrorism, it has also highlighted the country’s progress in doing so. The administration continues to engage with Qatar in an effort to work together towards a safe and secure region for all inhabitants.