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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 11:19 GMT
US military exercise begins in Qatar
US exercises in Kuwait
US troops are massing throughout the region
A major US-led military exercise is now under way in the Gulf State of Qatar.

About 1,000 American and British personnel led by General Tommy Franks, commander of US forces in the Gulf, launched Exercise Internal Look from the As-Sayliyah army base on Monday.

General Tommy Franks
General Franks could be chosen to lead a war on Iraq

The operation is essentially to test a new portable headquarters for US Central Command, and no combat forces are involved.

The Pentagon insists that the exercise is not related to the situation with Iraq. But the BBC's Nick Childs, in Washington, says it helps to maintain military pressure on Baghdad.

US troops are massing throughout the Gulf region, and senior military officials quoted by the New York Times on Saturday said that Washington will soon have enough equipment to enable it to begin an attack in January.

About 60,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, as well as 200 warplanes, are now in or near the region, the newspaper said.

Open in new window : Military balance
Iraqi and US forces in the region

US President George W Bush has threatened military action against Iraq if President Saddam Hussein does not surrender weapons of mass destruction in line with United Nations resolutions.

The UN is currently evaluating Iraq's declaration of its weapons programmes. Baghdad denies having nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Critical timing

Exercise Internal Look, aimed at testing a state-of-the-art $58m mobile command centre, started at 0730 local time (0430GMT) and is expected to last for about a week.

Technicians set up lap tops for use in the exercise
Exercise Internal Look is predominantly computer-based

General Franks is likely to be the man who would lead an attack on Iraq, and the new mobile command post could be a key nerve centre during the conflict, our correspondent says.

The exercise is being run mainly on computer, and the idea is to test communications with other regional command posts and, most crucially, US Central Command (Centcom) in Tampa, Florida.

"This exercise gives General Franks and the battle staff an opportunity to learn new lessons and will improve the command's ability to win on the modern battlefield," said Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications for Centcom.

Our correspondent says command, control and communications are now as critical to the outcome of any military campaign as the actual forces and firepower.


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07 Dec 02 | Middle East
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
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