Analysis

State Department Report Highlights Qatar’s Counterterrorism Efforts

 

The U.S. State Department publishes an annual, Congressionally-mandated terrorism report detailing a full and complete analysis of terrorism and counterterrorism efforts relating to countries around the world.

The 2017 annual terrorism report on Qatar marks a significant achievement is U.S.-Qatar security relations, highlighting Qatar’s historic progress in combatting terrorism and terrorism finance, unprecedented cooperation with U.S. counterterrorism agencies, and regional and international efforts to counter violent extremism, in line with the U.S. military’s strategic counterterrorism objectives and strategies.

Below is an overview of key findings from the report:

 

The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, of which Qatar is a founding member, has been successful in degrading the terrorist group’s foothold in the region:

“While significant terrorist activities and safe havens continued to persist in the Middle East and North Africa throughout 2017, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and its partners experienced success against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. By the year’s end, the Coalition and its partners had successfully liberated nearly all of the territory ISIS once controlled in Iraq and Syria, including the group’s so-called capital Raqqa. With the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, however, ISIS began to convert to more insurgent tactics toward the end of 2017.”

 

The United States and Qatar enhanced bilateral counterterrorism cooperation through a historic July 2017 Memorandum of Understanding and a November 2017 U.S.-Qatar Counterterrorism Dialogue:

“The United States and Qatar significantly increased counterterrorism cooperation in 2017, under the Counterterrorism Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in July. In the MoU, Qatar and the United States set forth mutually accepted means of increasing information sharing, disrupting terrorism financing flows, and intensifying counterterrorism activities.

At the November 8, 2017, U.S.-Qatar Counterterrorism Dialogue, the two governments affirmed the progress made on implementing the MoU and committed to expand bilateral counterterrorism cooperation. Qatar is an active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, is active in all Defeat-ISIS Coalition working groups, and has provided significant support in facilitating U.S. military operations in the region. Qatar hosts approximately 10,000 U.S. servicemen and women on two military installations critical to coalition efforts. Security services capable of monitoring and disrupting terrorist activities have maintained the status quo.”

 

The government of Qatar has enacted sweeping legislation to define, investigate, designate, and prosecute illegal activities related to aiding terrorist organizations, with advisory assistance from U.S. security officials:

“In July, the Qatari government promulgated Decree 11 of 2017, which amended the 2004 Law on Combating Terrorism. The amendment set out definitions of terrorism-related activities, penalties for terrorism-related offenses, and the establishment of a national designations list. In October, the U.S. government led a workshop for relevant Qatari authorities on the planned establishment of a domestic designations regime.”

 

Qatar’s security agencies have pursued aggressive policies to monitor and degrade terrorism capabilities within the country:

“The State Security Bureau maintains an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal extremist and terrorism-related activities. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Internal Security Force are well-positioned to respond to incidents with rapid reaction forces that routinely engage in structured counterterrorism training and exercises.”

 

Qatar’s judicial offices are playing a leading role in prosecuting suspects of terrorism-related crimes, and coordinates counterterrorism efforts with a national committee responsible for interagency cooperation on Qatar’s national counterterrorism strategy:

“The Office of Public Prosecution is tasked with prosecuting all crimes, including any related to terrorism, and plays a significant role in terrorism investigations. Qatar maintains an interagency National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) composed of representatives from more than 10 government agencies. The NATC is tasked with formulating Qatar’s counterterrorism policy, ensuring interagency coordination, fulfilling Qatar’s obligations to counter terrorism under international conventions, and participating in multilateral conferences on terrorism. U.S. officials met regularly with the chairman of the NATC to discuss implementation of the counterterrorism MoU and overall counterterrorism cooperation.”

 

The July 2017 U.S.-Qatar Memorandum of Understanding has been a critical instrument for bilateral counterterrorism cooperation between the two allied countries:

“As a result of the counterterrorism MoU, the United States and Qatar significantly increased information sharing, including on identities of known and suspected terrorists. Aviation security information sharing also increased, as new protocols were agreed to and established. During 2017, MOI authorities cooperated with DHS officials to enhance screening capabilities of the approximately 50 million travelers that pass through Hamad International Airport each year.”

 

U.S. officials have been welcomed to Qatar to assist government agencies with training, advising, technical assistance, and capacity building to further enhance Qatar’s counterterrorism effectiveness:

“U.S. technical assistance to Qatari law enforcement and judicial agencies increased, a result of the counterterrorism MoU. The Departments of Justice, State, and the Treasury led a workshop on domestic designations, while the FBI provided training on watchlists and terrorism financing investigations and the Department of Justice provided two advisors for capacity building within the Office of Public Prosecution. In February 2017, the Department of State and relevant Qatar agencies established a framework for ATA program security-related training in 2017-2019.”

 

Qatar continues its leadership role in regional and international multilateral counterterrorism organizations, that have proved vital to curbing terrorism financing:

“Qatar is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. In 2017, Qatar commenced preparations for the 2019 MENAFATF Mutual Evaluation, including establishing an interagency task force, formalizing cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, and intensifying coordination with U.S. counterparts. Qatar’s financial intelligence unit, the Qatar Financial Information Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group. Qatar is a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative announced during President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017.”

 

In 2017, Qatar passed updated terrorism financing legislation that mandates swift and meaningful punitive action against suspected terrorism financiers:

“Decree 11 of 2017 defined terrorism financing-related activities, laid out penalties, and established a domestic designations list. Qatari legislation requires the Office of Public Prosecution to freeze the funds of individuals and organizations included on the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions list. The Qatar Central Bank works with financial institutions to confirm asset-freezing compliance with respect to these UN obligations.”

 

Qatar deepened cooperation with the United States on combatting terrorism financing during 2017:

“In October 2017, Qatar joined the United States and other TFTC countries in coordinated domestic designations of individuals and entities associated with AQAP and ISIS-Yemen.”

 

Qatar has pursued legal action against internationally-designated terrorism financiers:

“Two UN-designated financiers who were acquitted in a 2015-2016 trial were placed under arrest and imprisoned in July 2017. The Qatari Attorney General initiated proceedings to appeal the prior acquittals. Additionally, Qatari authorities also placed under arrest two other terrorism financiers previously convicted in the 2015-2016 trial.”

 

Qatar has reformed its regulatory regime for charitable organizations, to ensure compliance with anti-terrorism finance laws:

“In July, Qatari authorities took sweeping measures to monitor and restrict the overseas activities of Qatari charities, requiring all such activity to be conducted via one of the two approved charities. Authorities also significantly increased procedures to monitor private donations. The sector is overseen by the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities, in coordination with the Central Bank and law enforcement agencies.”

 

Qatar has invested heavily in education to prevent extremist ideology from manifesting in its own borders and through international educational initiatives:

“The core of Qatar’s CVE strategy remained intensive investment in education through the 45 entities comprising the Qatar Foundation. This includes Qatar campuses of six U.S. universities, as well as through its national university and the public K-12 school system. The government is undertaking a review of its K-12 education system and sought the input of U.S. academic institutions. The growing Qatar Foundation school system follows an International Baccalaureate curriculum, which is grounded in liberal education principles.

Qatar Foundation International (QFI), headquartered in Washington, DC, remained a primary vehicle for Qatar’s international CVE activities. QFI’s Education Above All initiative provided educational opportunities to communities stricken by poverty or crisis, primarily in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East – impacting an estimated 10 million children worldwide since 2013. Reach Out to Asia provided access to education for youth in that region. QFI’s Al Fakhoora initiative provided scholarships to Palestinian and Syrian youth. These and other QFI initiatives are designed to facilitate understanding and education, and deter isolationist, xenophobic, and extremist thought and ideology.

Qatar continued its robust financial support for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, and in December hosted its seventh annual Board Meeting. Qatar continued to fund the Education for Justice Initiative, a CVE program focused on crime prevention and criminal justice implemented by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.”

 

(Image Source: State Department)

 

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