The top American officials in charge of running postwar Iraq are being relieved of their jobs in what US officials said was part of a broad shake-up of US operations in Iraq, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
Retired US General Jay Garner, who has overseen the rebuilding of Iraq for the George W. Bush administration over the past three weeks, will be departing with some of his top aides, possibly within a week or two, the Post reported.
Barbara Bodine, the American coordinator for central Iraq and the effective postwar mayor of Baghdad, was to leave for Washington yesterday to take a senior post at the State Department, the newspaper reported from Baghdad.
The moves come just a few days after US President George W. Bush named former State Department counterterrorism chief L. Paul Bremer as the top civil administrator in Iraq.
Bodine had been in charge of restoring public services and laying the foundations for a democratic government in Iraq, tasks critics say Washington has failed to tackle effectively.
While the departure of Garner and Bodine come amid concerns that US efforts to restore order to Baghdad following the war have fallen short, some US officials involved in rebuilding Iraq are now concerned the change in personnel could further slow operations in Iraq, the Post reported.
Iraqis say Garner's team has failed to fulfill promises to hand out emergency payments, restore basic services, dismantle criminal networks and involve Iraqis in planning for a new local government, the Post report said.
The newspaper also reported that the American military unit directing the search for weapons of mass destruction is dismantling its operations and will likely leave Iraq next month.
The 75th Exploitation Task Force has so far failed to find any of the suspected biological and chemical weapons that Bush used as a pretext to launch the war against Iraq.
The Post cited Army officials as saying many suspected weapons sites were looted and burned before US troops could reach them.
Meanwhile, a massive fire broke out yesterday at Baghdad's main telecommunications facility in the center of the Iraqi capital, a reporter said.
One person covered in soot was escorted by local residents down the fire escape and out of the building, where an enormous blaze was raging. It was not immediately known if any other people were inside.
A vast plume of gray and black smoke poured into the sky and could be seen from across the city. No US troops or Iraqi firemen appeared to be present at the scene.