The Turkish parliament on October 5 approved a presidential motion for Turkish troops to serve in Qatar during the FIFA World Cup to be held from November 21 to December 18, 2022. The number of troops and when they will be deployed are left completely to the discretion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
While none of the previous military agreements between the two countries referenced by the government in the motion mentions military troops serving during a football tournament or similar event, the government claimed that the motion is in line with the requirements of a protocol titled “Letter of Intent on Cooperation in Mega Event Implementation,” from 2019, which only regulates the assignment of the police force, who will be ready to intervene in possible demonstrations or fights between hooligans. In other words, Turkey is sending soldiers under an agreement that only involves the police.
Presidential motion approved in the Turkish parliament:
The motion states that “The Government of the State of Qatar requested friendly and allied countries to contribute with elements of the armed forces within the framework of the said operation [World Cup Shield], and requested our country [to contribute under the same framework]. In addition to our country, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Pakistan are contributing to the World Cup Shield Operation with military elements.”
However, it is not specified when and to what extent Qatar requested troops from Turkey for the World Cup. It is believed that the leaders of the two countries, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and President Erdoğan, who meet frequently, discussed the issue between themselves and that Erdoğan agreed. Prominent Turkish investigative journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan claimed that then-Naval Forces Commander Metin Bostanoğlu learned from his Qatari counterpart during an official visit to Doha in June 2022 that Turkish warships and marines would also serve during the World Cup.
Countries mentioned in the memorandum as participating in Operation World Cup Shield — France, the United Kingdom and the US — have already signed bilateral agreements with Qatar and agreed in writing under which conditions their troops and security personnel would be deployed, their legal immunity from Qatar’s strict Sharia law and their expenses during the mission.
According to the Qatari media Qatar and the US Department of Defense were set to cooperate on technical arrangements during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, announcing a memorandum of understanding on October 5 on the matter.
“The technical agreements aim to identify and put in order the responsibilities related to cooperation between the two sides and the US armed forces contribution to providing support to the FIFA 2022 World Cup,” said the Gulf state’s Ministry of Defence.
France will be sending one of its air force’s four E-3F Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), which can track hundreds of targets in addition to 191 gendarmes along with deminers and sniffer dogs. French President Emmanuel Macron on July 29, 2022 approved the bilateral agreement allowing military personnel to deploy to Qatar during the World Cup.
Text of the bilateral agreement regulating the status of French troops in Qatar
In August 2022 Pakistan’s cabinet approved a draft agreement that allowed the government to provide military troops for security at the World Cup. The cabinet summary, reviewed by Reuters, said the government of Qatar had requested assistance in security-related aspects of the World Cup and that Pakistan’s military had proposed the signing of an agreement between the states for that purpose.
“The agreement aims to define the obligations of the two parties, the specific specializations, and the number of security personnel to be sent by Pakistan to participate in the security and safety operations,” the summary said.
During the parliamentary debate, Turkish opposition lawmakers claimed there was no mention of Turkish Armed Forces personnel in the protocol previously approved by parliament, asking what kind of an extraordinary national interest had emerged to send Turkish soldiers when permission was sought to send the police before. The opposition claimed that Turkish soldiers, like policemen, are being used as private security guards because of Erdoğan’s close relationship with the Qatari emir.
Ünal Çeviköz of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) claimed that contrary to what is stated in the presidential motion, all the countries involved — except Pakistan and Turkey — will send police and gendarmes as security forces and will provide technical and intelligence support, but they will not have military personnel on the ground, underlining the fact that even Morocco, which is on good terms with Qatar, is not sending a single soldier.
The motion was published in the Official Gazette and entered into force on October 8.
Qatar and Turkey have been in close cooperation in recent years. Turkish opposition circles claim that Erdoğan and Al Thani are in fact business partners. Critics frequently allege that the real owners of the factories and companies in Turkey that Qatari businessmen have recently bought are the Erdoğan family.
Nordic Monitor previously reported that Turkey will send a police force of 3,250 officers to Qatar, including members of the notorious special operations unit, during the FIFA World Cup. Turkey will not be responsible for damages or compensation arising out of the actions of the Turkish National Police, known for its disproportionate use of force at public events.
According to the agreement, all transportation, accommodation and other expenses of the police officers to be deployed to Qatar will be covered by the host country. In addition, sim cards and internet packages will be allocated to the policemen. Turkey requested that all personnel stay in the same place if possible.
The Turkish side will also assist the Qataris in preventing possible terrorist bombings. In addition to bomb experts, 50 bomb-sniffing dogs and their handlers will accompany the force. The Turkish police have a total of 132 bomb-detecting dogs, almost half of which will be assigned to the World Cup.
Turkey has a military base in Qatar, where it maintains some 3,000 troops from the Land Forces Command. Ankara plans to expand the base with naval and air assets.
President Erdoğan, who met with Gianni Infantino, president of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) in New York on September 21, stated that he would attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup and posed for a picture with a gift ball with his name on it.