U.S. military commanders in Iraq are set to redeploy their troops as they begin the post-war phase of enforcing security and assisting reconstruction efforts.
Beginning Thursday, the U.S. military will begin re-organizing its ground troops throughout Iraq.
The planning officer for the U.S. Army's Fifth Corps, Major Louis Rago, says the move will be a complex one, aimed at setting up three distinctive occupation zones for the U.S. Army and the Marines.
"Initially, the attack was both the Marine Forces and Army forces from Fifth Corps, attack to the north with the Army in the west and the Marines in the east. Now, the battle space is being reset with the Army continuing the attack into northern Iraq and expanding the battle space into the west as the Marine forces occupy southern Iraq."
Along with British allies, the 60,000 strong First Marine Expeditionary Force is expected to take responsibility for nine of Iraq's 18 governates in the south. The Army's Fifth Corps, which includes the Third Infantry Division that fought its way from the Kuwaiti border into Baghdad, will oversee eight governates in the northern and western parts of the country. Each military zone has a population of more than nine million people.
The troop redeployments will leave the final zone, Baghdad and its more than five million residents, under the supervision of the coalition ground forces commander Lieutenant General David McKiernan and his troops. The three-star general recently moved his headquarters from Kuwait to the Iraqi capital.
The division of security responsibility between the U.S. Army and Marines in Iraq corresponds roughly to the geographic organization that has been outlined by Iraq's interim administrator, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner. General Garner was appointed by President Bush in January to oversee aid, reconstruction and civil government until power can be handed back to the Iraqi people through a democratic process. On Wednesday, the head of U.S. Central Command, General Tommy Franks, flew to Baghdad from his base in Doha, Qatar for a closed-door meeting with Lieutenant General McKiernan. The discussion is believed to have centered on the planned military reorganization.
The six-hour visit was General Franks' first trip to Baghdad since Saddam Hussein was toppled from power more than a week ago.