WASHINGTON – An exercise to test the U.S. military's communications links during a conflict in the Persian Gulf region begins next week and will involve thousands of military personnel worldwide, military officials said Wednesday.
The exercise, called "Internal Look," will test a portable headquarters compound set up in the Gulf nation of Qatar. Led by Gen. Tommy Franks of U.S. Central Command, the war game will start Monday and last through Dec. 16 or 17, officials said.
The exercise will involve about 1,000 Central Command personnel in Qatar and several thousand worldwide, said the officials, who briefed reporters about the exercise on condition of anonymity. Several allied countries also are participating, including Britain.
Phase one of "Internal Look" started last month: Central Command brought the portable command and control communications center and moved it to As Sayliyah military base, near Qatar's capital, Doha.
If there is war, As Sayliyah has repeatedly been mentioned as a possible headquarters for Franks and his staff. Central Command -- responsible for U.S. military activities in East Africa and southwestern Asia -- would definitely control any showdown with the army of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Phase two, which starts Monday, is the playing of war games inside the prefab buildings in the desert.
Internal Look will not involve ground troops, but will test the ability of senior commanders to coordinate with the portable headquarters.
During the operation, soldiers will establish around-the-clock communications with the main headquarters in Tampa, Fla., as well as with the Army in Kuwait, the Air Force in Saudi Arabia and the Navy and Marine headquarters in Bahrain.
Barring the outbreak of war, plans call for Franks and his senior staff to return to their Tampa office in mid-December after the exercise. The mobile headquarters will remain in Qatar "for the time being," the officials said Wednesday, refusing to elaborate.