Iraq would be divided into thirds for administrative purposes -- northern, southern and central sectors. The borders of those areas have not been established, according to the Pentagon officials, but the southern sector is expected to be demographically dominated by Shiites and the northern sector by Kurds. Boundary lines would be determined by existing major roads, terrain features and population centers.
Despite the potential ethnic divisions among the civil sectors, officials insist Iraq would remain a single country.
"The United States does not support Iraq's disintegration or dismemberment," Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith told Congress on Feb. 11.
The three administrators could be American civilians or could be from coalition countries -- possibly the United Kingdom and Australia -- and would report to retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who heads the Pentagon Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
Garner himself may eventually report to another, higher-ranked civilian, who may or may not be American.
"There will be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a civilian in charge of the day-to-day aspects of reconstruction," Joseph Collins, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations, said in February. "That will be the person who will not only be the central interface with the international organizations and the NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but that will also be the person who will be the central interface between the coalition and the free Iraqis."
The Pentagon hopes to transition components of the Iraqi government to Iraqis or expatriate Iraqis as quickly as possible, officials said.
The 1949 Geneva Convention requires any occupying power -- the United States -- to provide for the health and welfare of the Iraqi population, with food and adequate medical care.
The United States will also be responsible for maintaining law and order, a task potentially complicated by the disparate ethnic groups in the country and the possibility of conflict between Turkish military forces and armed Kurdish guerillas who have a 13-year history of violence between them in the border areas.
"The Turkish army tortured, killed and 'disappeared' civilians, and burned hundreds of thousands of peasants out of their homes. The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK, now known as KADEK) also massacred civilians and executed prisoners," Human Rights Watch said this week.
Franks told reporters at the Pentagon he is aware of the potential for conflict and is taking steps to avert it.
"We all recognize that there have been frictions between the Kurds and the Turks up in northern Iraq, we certain believe that that is a factor. We, in fact, work representatives with both the Kurds and with the Turks and will continue to do that. And actually I would not be willing to predict what might happen up there. We're aware of history, and so we'll be working in order to mute whatever problem may arise," he said on Wednesday at the Pentagon.
Collins told reporters the Pentagon's top priority will be in providing for a secure and weapons-free Iraq. Humanitarian relief efforts, beyond immediate emergency assistance, will be left to non-governmental organizations and U.N. relief agencies which will move in after troops have made it safe enough for them to work.
This approach may not pan out, according to Refugees International President Kenneth Bacon.
"The imperative to defeat Saddam Hussein's government and to find and decommission weapons of mass destruction will be so consuming that a local-level security vacuum may be created in areas that the military sweeps through. Local policing and security for humanitarian workers are unlikely to be priorities for the U.S. military, but little Iraqi policing capability will survive the destruction of the government. This will create instability at the local level that will impede effective relief efforts," he stated Friday.
"The prospect of a quick handover to the U.N. and NGOs to take care of the Iraqi population is illusory," he stated.
According to Bacon, the United Nation's World Food Program has stockpiled enough food for 2 million people for a month. Relief groups estimate as many as 16 million people will need immediate emergency food aid.
"Supporting the grain component of the food ration system for 24 million Iraqis for two months will cost approximately $400 million," Bacon stated.
The Pentagon has set aside just under 3 million humanitarian daily rations for emergency distribution.
The U.N. December report, "Likely Humanitarian Scenarios," estimates that emergency requirements in the event of war will include health supplies to treat 1.23 million highly vulnerable people, according to Refugees International.
President George W. Bush pledged at his news conference Thursday that the United States would live up to its obligations to the Iraqi people.
"We fully intend to make sure that they've got ample food. We know where their hospitals are; we want to make sure they've got ample medical supplies. The life of the Iraqi citizen is going to dramatically improve," Bush said.