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[] LT 09.12.02: Thousands Join US Cyber-Rehearsal For War,

London Times
December 9, 2002

Thousands Join US Cyber-Rehearsal For War

By Nicholas Blanford

DOHA, Qatar--A United States military exercise that could shape the tactics 
in any war against Iraq begins today at the sprawling al-Sayliyah army camp 
in the desert outside Doha, the capital of Qatar.

This, however, is no conventional military exercise.There will be no tank 
formations churning up the desert, no artillery batteries pounding the 
horizon, no helicopter gunships overhead, and no sweating soldiers in sand 

Instead the participants, "headquarters staff from US Central Command 
(Centcom)", are more likely to be found hunched over computer consoles and 
staring at video screens for the duration of the "Internal Look" exercise.

General Tommy Franks, the commander of Centcom, and about 600 of his staff 
will spend between a week and ten days in al-Sayliyah playing a 
sophisticated virtual war game that will involve several thousand US 
soldiers in command centres spanning all 25 countries within Centcom s area 
of operations, from North Africa to East Asia. They would be joined by 
about 400 British troops in Qatar and another 400 from bases in Britain, 
America and the Gulf, diplomatic sources said.

"What this exercise is going to do is test and exercise our ability to 
communicate on the modern battlefield," a senior Centcom official said. 
"This exercise is going to be a very complex computer-based and assisted 
exercise that will not involve combat forces." General Franks led some 200 
of his staff through a warm-up on Saturday.

Three previous "Internal Look" exercises have been held since 1990, but 
this is the first to be conducted outside America. The scenario is 
classified, but there are no prizes for guessing which country is likely to 
be the focus.

Tensions with Iraq remain high and America has been steadily building up 
its forces in the Gulf region for months. Some 10,000 American troops are 
conducting exercises in Kuwait near the border with southern Iraq. About 
4,000 US forces are in Qatar, most of them at al-Sayliyah and at the £930 
million state-of-the-art al-Udeid airbase, five minutes further down the 
dusty highway.

The 262-acre al-Sayliyah base was constructed at a cost of more than £73 
million and is Centcom s largest pre-positioning facility outside America. 
Its 27 temperature-controlled warehouses can house equipment for an 
armoured division of 11,000 soldiers. The facility holds hundreds of tanks 
and armoured fighting vehicles, allowing US forces to cut the speed of 
deployment from four weeks "as at the time of the 1991 Gulf War" to just 
four days.

A large American flag flutters in the hot breeze beside the Qatari national 
flag providing a splash of colour amid the drab buildings. The base is 
protected by a 2.5-mile mesh fence interspersed with watch towers. The 
perimeter fence is reinforced by twin steel cables designed to stop lorries 
from breaking through. A waist-high barricade of rocks provides a secondary 
line of defence. Heavily armed American private security guards man the 
entrance to the base while other uniformed soldiers scrutinise the 
perimeter fence through binoculars.

Hidden among buildings are new portable headquarters that are being tested 
as part of the exercise. The mobile command centre was transported from 
America to Qatar last month and assembled at al-Sayliyah for "Internal 
Look". Comprising several modular units and capable of withstanding extreme 
heat and cold, the centre is designed to be flown and assembled anywhere in 
the Centcom area of operations.

Pentagon officials have indicated that some senior staff involved in the 
exercise could remain in Qatar once it ends, instead of returning to 
Centcom s headquarters in Tampa, Florida. The portable headquarters is also 
expected to stay in Qatar, heightening speculation that the tiny oil and 
gas-rich Gulf state could play a pivotal role in a possible invasion of Iraq.

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