US Air Force B-52 bombers arrive at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar
US Air Force B-52 bombers arrive at Al Udeid Air Base in QatarReuters

The United States has quietly reached an agreement that extends its military presence at a sprawling base in Qatar for another 10 years, three US defense officials and another official familiar with the agreement told CNN on Tuesday.

The Al Udeid Air Base, located in the desert southwest of Doha, is the biggest US military installation in the Middle East and can house more than 10,000 American troops.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Al Udeid last month, where he thanked Qatar for their increased spending on the base, but made no mention of the renewal and the Biden administration has not publicized it.

The base has been a pivotal hub for the US Central Command’s air operations in or around Afghanistan, Iran and across the Middle East. The Qatari and British Air Forces also operate from the base, noted CNN.

The extension comes as the US has bolstered its presence in the region amid escalating threats from Iran-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

While Qatar has come under fire for hosting senior Hamas leaders, it has also played a central role in mediating the release of Americans from captivity in Gaza and Venezuela.

Qatar, along with Egypt, mediated between Israel and Hamas in the late November truce, during which Hamas released 110 hostages.

In recent days, the indirect talks between Hamas and Israel have been renewed, with Qatar once again playing a key role.

US President Joe Biden recently spoke with Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, and the two “discussed the urgent effort to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas, including American citizens.”

CNN noted that, while Austin didn’t announce the extension of the Al Udeid agreement during his visit at the base last month, he did say that the US and Qatar “will formally take steps forward to expand and reinforce our bilateral defense relationship.”

“We’ll do this through Qatar’s commitment to contribute significant resources to increase capabilities here at Al Udeid Air Base, and that will support both of our forces for years to come,” Austin added.