April 10 (UPI) — The State Department approved the sale of military hardware to Qatar the day before Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomed Qatar’s emir to the Pentagon — nearly a year after accusations of supporting terrorism were lobbed at the Persian Gulf state from the president.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has approved the sale of Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems II Guidance Sections, along with rockets, warheads, support and additional materials at an estimated cost of $300 million.
The approval comes as Mattis on Monday kicked off two days of talks with Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani during the inaugural meeting between the United States and Qatar. Mattis praised the Persian Gulf state for its “critical support” of operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The forward deployed headquarters of U.S. Central Command is located in Qatar. The base supports U.S. air and counter terrorism operations in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, maintain a force around 10,000 service members.
“We don’t take this relationship for granted, and we appreciate what you do,” Mattis said.
Al-Thani met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday for lunch. The meeting comes nearly a year after Trump accused Qatar of funding terrorism and posing a threat to other neighboring countries in the region.
Mattis and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was ousted last month by the Trump administration, advised the president that Qatar, like Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations, has a checkered past when it comes to supporting terrorism.
The State Department cemented its position to go forward with the arms export on Monday, with Congress being notified of the potential sale, according to DSCA.
If no congressional legislation is passed to block or modify the terms of the agreement, the government of Qatar is slated to received 5,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems II Guidance Sections, which can be integrated onto both fixed and rotary winged aircraft.
The foreign military sale also includes 5,000 MK66-4 2.75 inch rocket motors, the latest modification that enhances the overall lethality of a warhead once installed. Qatar will also receive 5,000 high explosive warheads for airborne 2.75 inch rockets, along with inert MK66-4 2.75 inch rocket motors and high explosive warhead for airborne 2.75 inch rockets for training in addition to other services and support equipment.
Qatar plans to integrate the warheads onto their newly procured fleet of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. DSCA said this will aid in Qatar’s ability to expand their counter terrorism operations.
In June 2016, Boeing was tapped to manufacture and deliver 24 AH-64E Apache helicopters, along with other equipment and services in a deal valued at $667 million.
The Defense Department said in a press release that the proposed sale supports the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States as “Qatar is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Persian Gulf region. Our mutual defense interests anchor our relationship and the Qatar Emiri Air Force plays a predominant role in Qatar’s defense.”
BAE has been tapped to be the primary contractor on the deal.
The State Department said that the proposed sale of equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region and will not adversely impact U.S. defense readiness.