Franks’ 15-hour flight took him from his Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., where he has overseen the war in Afghanistan, to Qatar, a Gulf emirate where he has a new headquarters complex that could be used in an Iraq war.
Qatar, a peninsula that juts out from Saudi Arabia’s Gulf coast, has emerged as a crucial U.S. ally in the region.
Franks went directly to Camp As Sayliyah for a series of meetings and briefings with his battle staff. Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications for Central Command, said in an interview from Qatar that Franks planned to conduct full-day practice runs of the simulated war game on Saturday and Sunday. The actual exercise starts Monday.
The exercise, code-named Internal Look, involves no combat troops. It is designed to test Franks’ ability to command Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and special operations forces in the Gulf using a new high-tech command post. The war scenario in Internal Look is classified but reportedly includes potential conflict with Iraq.
The exercise has been, in the planning for many months, coincides with Iraq’s expected delivery to the United Nations this weekend of its response to the Security Council’s demand for documentation on programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi officials reiterated Friday they have no such weapons programs. The Bush administration insists Iraq is lying about this and must disarm or face war.
Franks’ command post is at Camp As Sayliyah, a little-publicized installation on the outskirts of Doha, the Qatari capital. The camp’s main function has been as a climate-controlled storage area for tanks and other armor and equipment.
If President Bush were to order an attack on Iraq, Franks probably would direct the operation from As Sayliyah. Franks’ naval commander is in Bahrain, his Air Force commander in Saudi Arabia and his Army commander in Kuwait.
British commanders also are at Camp As Sayliyah for the Internal Look exercise, and other allied nations might come as observers.
Internal Look has been staged periodically for more than a decade, but this is the first time Central Command has used its transportable headquarters, 22 prefabricated buildings, 16 tents and communications equipment, for the exercise. It also is the first time Internal Look has been held outside the United States.
The United States has several other military installations in Qatar, including Camp Snoopy, a major military logistics base, and al-Udeid air base, where about 3,300 U.S. troops are stationed. Central Command also has an ammunition storage facility in Qatar called Falcon 78.
Camp As Sayliyah: