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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of Qatar

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Your Highness, it's a real pleasure to see you again, and an honor to host you here at the Pentagon. 

Let me begin by saying that the U.S. defense partnership with Qatar is strong, and it serves as a cornerstone for our strategic relationship.  The U.S. is committed to making our partnership even stronger, although it's very strong, as you and I both know.  I'm grateful that Qatar continues to generously host American troops.  This allows the United States to support a range of critical missions in the region.

I'd also like to express my heartfelt thanks, Your Highness, for all that Qatar has done and continues to do to support the United States in Afghanistan.  We couldn't have evacuated more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan without your help at Camp As Sayliyah and Al Udeid.  You welcomed with open arms those who left Afghanistan to find a new beginning.  As I said in Doha last September, it is no exaggeration to say that Qatar's actions saved thousands of lives.  We've also been able to keep the Kabul Airport open because of you.  After our last C-17s departed, your airplanes continued to fly out those who were seeking a better life.  And Your Highness, you've really stepped up as a reliable partner and a trusted leader.

Now, unfortunately, we're seeing increased threats in the region from terrorism, missiles and unmanned aerial systems attacks.  And so I'm focused on moving to a new era of partnership in which we tackle shared threats through multilateral efforts and where operations are more integrated.  This cooperation will allow our defense relationships with partners like Qatar to continue to grow stronger, and I know that Qatar and the United States stand together in ensuring security and stability in the region.  We share the same objectives: We want to resolve conflicts and provide humanitarian aid to civilians in need, and to de-escalate tensions.

Your Highness, thanks again for being here, and I look forward to our discussion.

AMIR TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL THANI:  Good morning, everyone.  Thank you very much, my dear friend, Secretary of Defense Mr. Austin.  I'm very delighted to be here meeting you this morning, and everyone.

Qatar and the United States enjoy a long-standing and strong partnership in defense.  We are very happy and glad to host the most important military facility in the Middle East, Al Udeid Base, more than 10,000 military personnel in Qatar. 

Of course, we were very proud and honored to help evacuate Americans from Afghanistan last summer, and this partnership showed, demonstrated how close we are and how we can work together.  So we are very proud of this great cooperation, and you know, we are -- this year, we are hosting a very big event, the World Cup, and we thank you for your cooperation in helping us secure this World Cup. 

We're going to continue working together to help bring security and stability in the region, and I'm sure with this close partnership and this great relationship, we will be able to do so.  We demonstrated that very clearly in Afghanistan.  We still have, of course, a lot of work to be done in Afghanistan, and we're committed to the better future of the people of Afghanistan. 

So I'm very happy to be with you this morning.  We have a lot of things to discuss in our agenda.  So thank you very much for welcoming us.