In Kuwait, a US-led agency set up under the auspices of the US Defense Department is preparing to take charge of civilian matters for the foreseeable future. A 200-strong team of former US military and other government agency personnel, humanitarian workers and Iraqi experts have assembled under the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
The man in charge is retired American General Jay Garner, an old friend of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He will be, in effect, de facto ruler of Iraq in the immediate post-war period and answerable to US war commander General Tommy Franks, who has ultimate authority.
The ORHA's mission is to provide humanitarian assistance, work on reconstructing Iraq and prepare for the eventual creation of an interim government by the Iraqis themselves.
General Garner's team, which also includes some British civil servants, is preparing to cross into Iraq to overhaul everything from the country's currency - which features the likeness of Saddam Hussein - to power supplies, legal code, police service and schools.
It will also have the considerable task of establishing democratic institutions in a country that has never known them.
The ORHA team includes people from the State Department and the US Agency for International Development who have worked in a similar capacity in the former Yugoslavia, in Haiti, and in Somalia.
The ORHA was set up by the US Defense Department in March to deal specifically with a post-Saddam Iraq. About half a dozen key officials have been hand-picked by the Pentagon.
A Vietnam War veteran, Garner is an expert in air defense systems and directed Patriot missile batteries used to defend Israel from Iraqi Scud missile attacks during the 1991 Gulf War. He also directed a US-led humanitarian mission to protect northern Iraq's Kurds from Saddam Hussein's military.
Garner, who since 1996 has directed a private defense consultancy, faces criticism for being pro-Israel. Many Muslims mistrust him, saying that he has accepted gifts from a Jewish lobbying group that argues Washington needs a strong Israel to project force in the Middle East.
The ORHA mission has been secretive in nature, but, some details are known.
Its aim is to split the country into three regions and establish three administration centres - in the capital Baghdad, Mosul in the north and Basra, or Umm Qasr, in the south.
General Garner will be in overall control and is likely to move to Baghdad in the coming days. After the Gulf War, he oversaw US efforts to aid Kurds in the north of the country. His role has already become controversial in the Arab world. Two years ago, he signed a statement supporting Israel and accusing Palestinians of filling their children with hate. Arab and Muslim leaders say this raises questions about whether he is the right man for the job.
Bruce Moore, a retired general, will be in charge of the north.
Barbara Bodine, the former US ambassador to Yemen who served in Baghdad in the 1980s, will look after the central region, including Baghdad. Ms Bodine was held hostage at the US embassy in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War. She is reportedly one of a group of State Department Arabists who made it on to the team after the Pentagon rejected a number of former US ambassadors and diplomats.
Roger "Buck" Walters, another retired general and Texas businessman, will oversee the south. He is one of the group hand-picked by the Pentagon.
It is believed that each administration will have a core staff of around 12 people. They will be supplemented by "free Iraqis" - those who have been living in the US, the UK and other European countries, and do not represent a particular opposition group.
In theory, they will represent each of the 17 provinces of Iraq and Baghdad and will help run each of 23 ministries. They will, however, only be hired on short-term contracts, so that Iraqis inside the country can, eventually, take over.
General Garner will have three other deputies who will be in charge of broad areas:
humanitarian assistance - George Ward, a former US marine and ambassador to Namibia.
reconstruction - Lewis Lucke, a veteran of USAID.
civil administration - Michael Mobbs, a Reagan-era arms negotiator and Pentagon legal adviser.
General Garner's role in the reconstruction of the country has prompted Arab suspicion over Washington's motives - and one difficulty for the ORHA will be not to appear as though it is taking over the country.
Some analysts say Iraqis would not tolerate an American governor for more than a couple of months.