The oil-rich Persian Gulf nation of Qatar is one of the U.S. military's most stalwart allies, providing a sprawling, state-of-the art air base from which the U.S. directs wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
So when a presidential tweet implies that Qatar is a supporter of terrorism, it puts the Pentagon's primary spokesman in a tough spot.
"Do you consider Qatar a supporter of terrorism?" a reporter asked Navy Capt. Jeff Davis at his regular off-camera briefing on Tuesday.
"I'm not the right person to ask that," Davis replied, careful not to place himself in opposition to his commander in chief.
"Do you consider them a reliable ally?" the reporter followed up.
"I consider them a host to our very important base at Al Udeid, which continues its operations without interruption."
President Trump fired off a number of tweets Tuesday morning, including one that appeared to support Saudi Arabia's allegation that the government of Qatar is supporting terrorism.
During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
An hour later he followed up with two more tweets critical of Qatar.
"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding... extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"
So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
...extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
The Pentagon has no interest in picking a fight with Qatar, which views the base in Doha as a strategically vital location. As recently as last month, even Trump referred to the nation as a "crucial strategic partner."
"Qater is home at Al Udeid Air Base, which is a very important location for us, both in terms of the hardware that we have that flies from there. It is also home to the command and control of all our air forces in the Central Command," Davis said. "AFCENT [Air Forces Central Command] is there. The CAOC [Combined Air Operations Center] is there. This is where the Russia hotline, the de-confliction hotline number rings to, so it has a very important function to us."
On Monday, the day before the president's Twitter tirade, a Defense Department spokesman issued a statement of thanks to Qatar for footing the bill for the base.
"The United States and the Coalition are grateful to the Qataris for their longstanding support of our presence and their enduring commitment to regional security," said Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway.
Also on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith tweeted her support to the nation amid its diplomatic crisis with other Arab nations.