The first of January will bring in more than a new year for U.S. troops serving in Iraq; it will also bring them a new name, as the moniker Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) is replaced by the new term, U.S. Forces-Iraq.
The dropping of the name "multi-national" removes one of the last reminders to the "coalition of the willing" that the Bush administration used to describe the 2003 allied invasion of Iraq and the subsequent effort to stabilize the country.
The long-awaited name change reflects the reality that, since July, only U.S. troops have continued to serve in Iraq.
At one time, as many as 39 countries had troops serving in some capacity in Iraq from places as varied as the United Kingdom, Poland, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Spain and the Pacific island of Tonga. In recent years, the number of participating countries had dwindled as had the number of troops contributed to the effort. The last non-U.S. troops to serve in Iraq were from the United Kingdom, Australia and Romania.
The move also consolidates U.S. forces into a new command structure ahead of the planned troop reductions scheduled for 2010. By the end of August 2010, the current force levels of 110,000 U.S. troops will be reduced to 50,000 troops who will be serve in a new training mission.
Under the security agreement between the United States and Iraq, all U.S. forces are supposed to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
The name change will result in a host of new acronyms.
For example, the overall command known as Multi-National Forces-Iraq will merge with the operational command known as Multi-National Corps-Iraq. This new combined unit will be renamed U.S. Forces-Iraq or USF-I.
Gen. Ray Odierno will continue to serve as the top U.S. commander in Iraq and Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, who currently heads MNC-I, will serve as his deputy.
In a briefing this past October with Pentagon reporters, Odierno said combining the headquarters would result in a 40 percent reduction in staff.
He said at the time that the consolidation was important because "I think it's time for us to do that as we continue to transition our mission over time. And it consolidates the span of control, in my mind. "
The four regional commands in the country, currently identified as the Multi-National Divisions, will also change their names. For example, Multi-National Division- North (MND-North) will be known as U.S. Division North or USD-N.
The consolidation also means one of the more interesting acronym pronunciations will go by the wayside as Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq, the unit responsible for the training of Iraqi forces, falls under the new command. In addition to having an important mission, the command is also known in military circles by the phonetic pronunciation of its acronoym, "Minn-Sticky."
As part of the shift to the training mission in 2010, inbound brigades to Iraq will be known as Advise and Assist Brigades or A.A.B.'s. The name and mission of these units reflects the move away from combat operations as they replace outgoing Brigade Combat Teams.
The consolidation of U.S. forces has already resulted in one tangible result. The controversial policy in MND- North that raised the possibility of disciplinary action against pregnant soldiers as well as the soldiers that made them pregnant will go away once U.S. Forces-Iraq comes on line.
That's because the broad policy restrictions imposed by regional commanders will be replaced by a new U.S. Forces-Iraq General Order that goes into effect Jan. 1. As part of the effort to consolidate U.S. forces, a review of existing general orders led to the creation of a new document that will supersede all existing regional restrictions and which does not include the pregnancy provision instituted in MND-North.