Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to arrive in Qatar on Monday as the U.S. shows support to its Gulf ally in hosting the world's most watched sports event.
The World Cup launched Sunday with fanfare as the first host game was played between Qatar and Ecuador. (Ecuador won 2-0.)
Qatar has launched its global spectacle in the face of withering criticism on claims of harsh working conditions and human rights abuses, including targeting the LBGTQ community.
Still a lengthy State Department statement published Sunday touted the U.S. and Qatar as "strategic partners advancing peace and security."
During the trip Blinken is expected to meet with his counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
The State Department release stated Qatar, designated a major U.S. ally, "is one of the United States' closest military partners in the region."
It noted that Qatar's Al-Udeid Air Base is home to the Combined Air Operation Center, "which hosts 18 nations and is responsible for all Coalition air operations in the Middle East and Central Asia."
The Al-Udeid base has been crucial for U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS and thwarting terrorism in the region.
"Qatar has demonstrated its commitment to combat the financing of terrorism through efforts to support U.S. sanctions, compliance with international sanctions, and participation in multilateral fora," the statement said.
The State Department also congratulated Qatar on its "historic step of opening direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha for the duration of the World Cup."
The statement thanked Qatar for its assistance to the U.S. during its 2021 pullout from Afghanistan. Qatar facilitated "the transit of U.S. citizens, Embassy Kabul personnel, at-risk Afghans, and other travelers from Afghanistan through Qatar."
Multiple press reports have claimed Qatar mistreated migrant workers during the run-up to the World Cup, as the Gulf state hastily built facilities to conduct the event.
The U.S. statement did not address the issue directly, but noted that the U.S. "recognizes Qatar's progress towards expanding labor rights, implementing labor laws, and combating human trafficking and is in regular dialogue with Qatar on the work that remains."
The World Cup will see 32 national teams compete with the final game set for Dec. 18.
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