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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 13:26 GMT
Bush's change of guard in Iraq
US President George W Bush is set to announce a raft of changes in senior military and diplomatic personnel as he prepares to unveil his new approach to policy on Iraq, officials say. The BBC's Nick Childs looks at the significance of the expected move.

It is turning into quite a changing of the guard on America's Iraq policy.

The former Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has, of course, already departed.

Lt Gen David Petraeus. File photo
Lt Gen Petraeus is tipped to be top ground commander in Iraq
Some of this latest shuffling of the US top brass and the administration's diplomatic team has been forced on President Bush.

Or it is the result of expected retirements and changeovers.

The timing, though, is fortuitous for Mr Bush. Lumping the moves together helps him from a presentational point of view.

It puts fresh faces into key positions, perhaps helping to mask the fact that the actual policy changes he is expected to unveil next week may not be as radical as many would like.

Some of the individuals concerned are, in fact, old Iraq hands.

Navy Adm William Fallon. File photo
Navy Adm Fallon is highly regarded as an astute commander

Lt Gen David Petraeus, tipped to be promoted to become the new coalition commander in Iraq, is credited with having adopted a sophisticated approach on his first tour of duty there as head of the army's 101st Airborne Division.

And he later revamped the training of the Iraqi security forces.

But that also ties him to some of the policies of the past.

Looking beyond Iraq

Perhaps the most interesting of the anticipated appointments is Navy Adm William Fallon, as head of US Central Command, overseeing the whole Middle East, a post usually reserved for army or marine generals.

John Negroponte. File photo
Mr Negroponte is expected to move to the State Department

Adm Fallon is highly regarded as an astute commander - he has been in charge of US Pacific Command.

But this move could also signal that the administration is looking beyond Iraq to broader regional worries - not least the ongoing diplomatic stand-off with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

In a way, the administration's diplomatic team appears to be getting a bigger boost.

The current ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, seems to be heading to the vacant position at the United Nations, following John Bolton's enforced departure.

But more significant still is the move by the current US intelligence chief, John Negroponte, back to the US State Department as the number two there - filling a yawning gap left by the departure of Robert Zoellick last summer.

President George W Bush
Mr Bush is expected to send more forces to Iraq

The fact that this post has been unfilled for so long has, it is generally acknowledged, damaged both US diplomacy and the boss at the State Department, Condoleezza Rice.

Mr Negroponte is a very senior and highly respected professional diplomat.

But, again, he is also a former ambassador to both the UN and Baghdad, and thus was intimately involved in a lot of what has gone before on US Iraq policy.

And, whatever the personnel changes, President Bush is apparently still grappling with splits within his administration.

He is also facing opposition from the Democrats, who now control the US Congress, over the advisability of what is set to be the centrepiece of his new approach to Iraq - a temporary increase of some 20,000-30,000 in the US force.

The changes being made in the US military

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