By ISABEL DEBRE and JON GAMBRELL
AL-UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AP) — About 8,000 American troops watch over the airspace of the Middle East from a major air base run by Qatar as World Cup fans throng stadiums in the energy-rich nation. Al-Udeid Air Base was built on a flat stretch of desert about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Qatari capital Doha. The base once was considered so sensitive that American military officers identified it as only being somewhere “in southwest Asia.” The sprawling hub is now Qatar’s strategic gem. It showcases the Gulf Arab emirate’s tight security partnership with the United States,. Washington considers Doha a major non-NATO ally.