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Thousands Join US Cyber-Rehearsal For War

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 755 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. NHNE 2002 Fall/Winter Fundraiser: Money needed = $2090.00
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2002
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      From Nicholas Blanford in Doha, Qatar
      The Times Online
      Monday, December 9, 2002


      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, ³headquarters staff from US Central Command
      (Centcom)², are more likely to be found hunched over computer consoles and
      staring at video screens for the duration of the ³Internal Look² 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 Centcom¹s 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.

      ³What this exercise is going to do is test and exercise our ability to
      communicate on the modern battlefield,² a senior Centcom official said.
      ³This exercise is going to be a very complex computer-based and assisted
      exercise that will not involve combat forces.² General Franks led some 200
      of his staff through a warm-up on Saturday.

      Three previous ³Internal Look² 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

      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 Centcom¹s 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 ³as at the time of the 1991 Gulf War² 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 ³Internal
      Look². 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
      Centcom¹s 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


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