THE OBSERVER (London)
Sunday December 1, 2002
US sets up Iraq battle HQ in Gulf
Ed Vulliamy in New York
The United States is preparing to install a new
command centre in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to
act as its headquarters in the war against Iraq. It is
the first time a major military HQ has been based
outside the US.
The centre at As Sayliyah will form America's base for
its generals, giving them complete command and control
on the doorstep of the theatre of war. The centre will
have all the functions of the headquarters in
Pensicola, Florida, from which the Afghan war was
The man who oversaw that war, General Tommy R. Franks
- Head of the Pentagon's Central Command - is due to
land in Qatar with 750 staff from US Central Command
within a week to supervise a large military exercise,
called Internal Look. American officials said the
command and control procedures used would be the same
used for a war with Iraq.
Yet according to the New York Times, the United States
has not yet even asked Qatar - a nation of 750,000
inhabitants - if the country can be used as a base
camp for a war against Saddam Hussein. Its official
line is that the US is merely improving its military
The 262-acre, $100 million base at As Sayliyah is home
to enough tanks to form an army brigade, and is the
largest single depot for US Army equipment outside the
country. It has more than 20 climate-controlled
warehouses, storing hundreds of M1 tanks, Bradley
fighting vehicles and other armoured vehicles.
Qatar has emerged as a crucial US military ally in the
region, in effect replacing Saudi Arabia, after being
jolted by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. 'They
woke up to the fact that they needed superpower
protection,' said a Western official.
On the other hand, Qatar will also be concerned about
the response of its Arab neighbours; it is also the
location for the Al-Jazeera TV network, which has been
a supporter of the Palestinian cause, and relayer of
Osama bin Laden's videotaped messages.
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