Overview: The United States and Qatar maintained a strong partnership in the fight against terrorism. Qatar is a partner in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and has provided significant support in facilitating critical U.S. military operations in the region. Terrorist activity historically has been low in Qatar; restrictive immigration policies and security services capable of monitoring and disrupting extremist activities have kept the threat level low. U.S. agencies have an active and productive dialogue with their Qatari counterparts and work closely for the exchange and evaluation of terrorist-related information. The United States and Qatar collaborated to foster closer regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and rule of law activities.
In addition to hosting two U.S. military installations critical to Counter-ISIL Coalition efforts, Qatar offered to host a base to train-and-equip moderate Syrian opposition forces, and provided significant operational and logistical support for Coalition activities. Qatar's Cabinet welcomed the December announcement of a new military alliance of thirty-four Islamic states led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism in "all its forms and manifestations, whatever their sources and justifications."
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Qatari government's legislation enacted in 2004, 2010, and 2014 to address terrorism, terrorism financing, and related offenses, complements other criminal laws. The 2004 Law on Combating Terrorism sets forth broad provisions for defining and prosecuting terrorist-related activities in Qatar against the State, including prohibitions on providing information, training, weapons, financing, and material support to terrorists and terrorist organizations; and creating, directing, or using lawful entities, associations, or organizations to commit terrorist activities. The 2004 law also criminalizes collaboration with or joining organizations or groups located outside of Qatar that commit a terrorist crime, even if not against the State of Qatar, and outlaws obtaining military training from such organizations or groups abroad. The 2014 Cybercrime Prevention Law criminalizes terrorism-linked cyber offenses.
The State Security Bureau (also known as the Qatar State Security) maintained an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal extremist or terrorism-related activities. The internal security-focused Ministry of Interior was well positioned to respond to incidents with rapid reaction forces and trained internal security forces that routinely pursued and engaged in structured counterterrorism training and exercises. Both the State Security Bureau and the Ministry of Interior were responsive to the Emiri Diwan and Prime Minister level command and control structures, and efforts have been made to streamline interagency coordination and civil defense operations. The Office of Public Prosecution is tasked with prosecuting all crimes, including any related to terrorism, and plays a prosecutorial role in terrorism investigations. Oversight and management of industrial security is consolidated under the Ministry of Interior, with integrated responsibility for protecting the critical energy infrastructure, ports, and airport.
In 2015, Qatar requested to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program, and continued to participate in and host multilateral Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) events. Also in 2015, Qatar hosted the UN Crime Congress and pledged specific funding to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to help address violent extremism and radicalization among youth and vulnerable populations. Qatar also maintains an interagency National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) within the Ministry of Interior composed of representatives from more than 10 government ministries and official institutions. The NATC is tasked with formulating Qatar's counterterrorism policy, ensuring thorough and transparent interagency coordination within the government, fulfilling Qatar's obligations to combat terrorism under international conventions, and participating in international or UN conferences on terrorism.
Qatar maintained its own watchlist of suspected terrorists that it used to screen passengers on international flights. Qatar also conducted vetting and background checks on all applicants for work visas. The Qatari government uses biometric scans for arrivals at its Hamad International Airport. Qatar engages in information sharing between its state-owned airline and foreign governments, including collecting and disseminating Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Records on commercial flights, and has agreed to enhanced information-sharing agreements with the United States.
Overall, Qatar's security services workforce was reliant on manpower from third countries to fill rank-and-file law enforcement positions. This limitation applies across the board with all Qatari government institutions (except for the Qatar State Security and elite units of the Ministry of Interior's internal security force), and is commensurate with the demographics of the nation. Lack of capacity and to some extent the lack of advanced training of non-Qataris contributed to a lack of effectiveness in basic police operations. However, Qatar's reliance on technology has provided state-of-the-art electronic surveillance capacity, which enhanced Qatari security services' effectiveness in the detection and monitoring of terrorist suspects.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Qatar is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body; and its financial intelligence unit, the Qatar Financial Information Unit (QFIU), is a member of the Egmont Group. Qatar's Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law of 2010 requires Qatar's Public Prosecutor to freeze the funds of individuals and organizations designated by the UN Security Council. The Qatar Central Bank worked with financial institutions to confirm compliance with respect to UN-designated entities and individuals, including Qatari citizens.
The Qatar Central Bank has a counterterrorism financing and anti-money laundering department that monitors suspicious accounts and transactions. The QFIU monitors suspicious accounts and transactions and files suspicious transaction reports (STRs). Non-profit organizations are not obliged to file STRs, but based on the charities law that was passed in 2014, every charity project and overseas financial transfer by a charity must be approved by the Charities Commission, a government interagency body that monitors charitable giving to prevent misused donations and terrorism financing.
Qatar has restructured its National Anti-Terrorism Committee, housed in the Ministry of Interior, to more effectively counter terrorism and continues to formulate a new and comprehensive counterterrorism framework. As part of ongoing efforts to curb terrorism financing, the State of Qatar issued new charities and cybercrime prevention laws in 2014. In 2015, the Qatari government froze assets and imposed travel bans on Qatari citizens Sa'd al-Ka'bi and Abd al-Latif al-Kawari after they were designated as terrorist financiers on the UN 1267/1989/2253 al-Qa'ida Sanctions List in 2015. Despite these efforts, entities and individuals within Qatar continue to serve as a source of financial support for terrorist and violent extremist groups, particularly regional al-Qa'ida affiliates such as the Nusrah Front. Qatar has made efforts to prosecute significant terrorist financiers.
For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INSCR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar supports and has adopted a variety of initiatives to counter violent extremism (CVE). Qatar was instrumental in the 13th UN Crime Congress adoption of the "Doha Declaration," an unprecedented framework wherein the international community agreed to focus on education to prevent extremism and criminality for the next five years, leading up to the 14th UN Crime Congress in 2020. In May, during the 13th Crime Congress, Qatar announced a new education initiative for young people displaced by conflict in the Middle East. In November, Qatar signed a four-year US $49 million funding agreement with the UNODC to deliver projects related to implementing the Doha Declaration, including projects on countering violent extremism through prisoner rehabilitation and social integration programs, and youth education for justice.
Qatar promotes and funds foundations and social enterprises engaged in implementing Qatar's CVE strategies. Qatar brought the Research Center for Islam and Ethics to its flagship university as a means of fostering moderate readings of Islamic thought to help combat extremist interpretations on science, gender, education, politics and interfaith dialogue. In February, the Center sponsored a lecture titled "When Fiqh and Ethics Are Disconnected: ISIS as an Example." Another aspect of Qatar's CVE strategy is messaging to avert linking terrorism with religion. Qatar helped fund the social enterprise "Silatech," which held regional workshops for youth to promote job creation, entrepreneurship, and the participation and engagement of young people in economic and social development as a deterrent from violent extremism.
Throughout 2015, Qatari leaders made strong public statements on the importance of countering violent extremism and radicalization to violence by addressing prevention, dialogue, and trust to communities most affected by the conflicts in the region. In December, Qatar's Ambassador to the UN gave a speech calling for international support of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF). Qatar highlighted this fund as the first global initiative aimed at enhancing skills, potential, and resources of both the public and private sectors to support local projects, such as education, vocational training, civic engagement, media, and defense of women's rights in an attempt to increase resilience against violent extremism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Qatar is an active participant in the UN, GCTF, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League, in counterterrorism activities. Qatar participated in the August U.S.-GCC Counterterrorism and Border Security Working group meeting in Riyadh, and other regional meetings of interior ministries focused on counterterrorism cooperation. Qatar hosted the GCTF Coordinating Committee Meeting in May, and announced a US $5 million donation as a founding member of GCERF.