‘Multi-National’ to drop from U.S. unit names in Iraq

BAGHDAD — One of the last vestiges of the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq will soon be retired.

As part of a consolidation of its command structure ahead of next year’s planned troop reductions, the U.S. military will drop the “Multi-National” name from its unit designations starting in January. The last non-U.S. troops, from the United Kingdom, Australia and Romania, left Iraq in July.

Under the plan, the top two levels of the U.S. command, known as Multi-National Force-Iraq and Multi-National Corps – Iraq, will be merged and renamed United States Forces-Iraq. The U.S. command that oversees training of Iraqi forces will also fall into the new command.

The four U.S. operational commands in the country, now known as Multi-National Divisions, will also drop the “Multi-National” from their names.

The military says the consolidation will help streamline operations during what it’s calling a “responsible drawdown” — the plan to reduce the U.S. presence from 120,000 troops to 50,000 by next summer. Troops are expected to begin leaving by spring, though Iraqi officials say political wrangling in parliament will delay January elections that would have paved the way for a partial withdrawal.

Under the consolidation, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno will remain the top U.S. commander in Iraq, while Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., who oversees day-to-day operations as commander of MNC-I, will stay as Odierno’s deputy, said a spokesman, Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros.

The staffs of the three current commands will be combined and downsized by about 40 percent.

“The fact that we can do that is another demonstration of the progress that’s taken place in Iraq,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Bayer, the MNC-I chief of staff.

As recently as 2008, more than 20 countries contributed to what Bush administration officials dubbed the “coalition of the willing” during the run-up to the 2003 invasion. Most of the international contingents in recent years, however, consisted of just a few dozen or a few hundred people. Small contingents from the United Kingdom, Australia and Romania were the last to go in July, leaving the U.S. as the sole contributor to the “Multi-National” forces.

In another name change meant to reflect progress away from combat operations, U.S. units deploying to Iraq are being sent as “advise and assist brigades” rather than “brigade combat teams.”

The AABs, which have deployed to Anbar province in the west, Wasit province in the south and the northern city of Mosul, are essentially the same as previous units but with an additional cadre of officers who act as liaisons with Iraqi security forces and at key points in local and regional government. “They’re our eyes and ears,” said Col. Mark Stammer, who commands the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in Anbar.

The AAB plan calls for 48 additional officers, though the early units have deployed with less than half that.

 

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