The Pentagon is considering creating a new four-star command to oversee operations in Iraq, according to Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the top spokesman for forces in Iraq.

The command would stand up around the time officials hope to convert the civilian-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which has overseen the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq, into a U.S. Embassy this summer, Kimmitt said in a telephone interview Friday.

If approved, the move would establish a command structure similar to that of U.S. forces in South Korea, where a U.S. four-star general oversees all allied forces throughout the country.

Kimmitt told Stars and Stripes two options are under consideration.

The first option, he said, would be to establish a four-star headquarters that would continue to oversee military operations but also act as the “political-military interface with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which transitions into a U.S. Embassy this summer."

Under that scenario, he said, the current three-star headquarters in Iraq, dubbed Coalition Joint Task Force Seven, “would remain to prosecute the tactical warfight.”

The second option, he said, is to “retain the existing three-star CJTF7 headquarters structure.”

As both options are being mulled, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez will remain in command of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq well beyond the rotation of units now under way, said Kimmitt.

V Corps has formed the nucleus for the allied headquarters in Iraq since the invasion last year.

The V Corps staff, however, is preparing to return to their home station in Heidelberg, Germany, turning over management of the combat zone to the Fort Hood, Texas-based III Corpson Feb. 1.

The III Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, was expected to assume the helm of CJTF7 during that ceremony. That’s been the norm for nearly every major operational turnover, from peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo to guerrilla-hunting operations in Afghanistan.

For now, however, Metz will serve as Sanchez’s deputy, said Kimmitt.

Retired Lt. Gen. Theodore Stroup Jr., vice president of the lobbying group Association of the U.S. Army, said the restructuring was a natural progression for the military’s most important mission.

“I don’t see this as any diminution of authority for Lieutenant General Metz, just the command structure getting a little larger,” said Stroup.

“What I anticipate will happen,” said Stroup, who is regularly briefed by the Army’s top brass, “is that Metz will become the operational commander and General Sanchez will continue to work with Ambassador Bremer as more of a senior military adviser,” referring to L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq.

Sanchez could be a prime candidate for promotion into any potential four-star command job in Iraq, Army insiders say.

Kimmitt, however, would only say that since “no decisions have been made on these options, it would only be speculation on who would be the three- and four-star commanders.”

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