The Green Zone (the common name for the International Zone of Iraq) is a 10 km² (4 mile²) area in central Baghdad that was the center of the Coalition Provisional Authority and remains the center of the international presence in the city. Its official name beginning under the Iraqi Interim Government is the International Zone, though Green Zone remains the most commonly used term. The contrasting Red Zone refers to parts of Baghdad immediately outside the perimeter, but is also loosely applied to all unsecured areas outside the off-site military posts. Both terms originated as military designations.
While most of the ministry buildings had been destroyed by airstrikes, this left a sizable number of buildings in central Baghdad abandoned. The Coalition Provisional Authority administrators who arrived on the heels of the invading forces decided this left them ideal for use by Coalition administrators. Jay Garner, head of the reconstruction team, set up his headquarters in the Republican Palace; other villas were taken by groups of government officials and private contractors. Charlie company 3/124 infantry of the Florida Army National Guard settled among the orange groves behind the palace and provided security for the palace and a large portion of the sector (from April 2003 to February 2004). Eventually some five thousand officials and civil contractors settled in the area.
The abandoned buildings were not only attractive to Coalition forces, but also to homeless Iraqis. Among these were individuals who had lost their homes in the conflict, but most were urban poor who had been homeless or in slums before the war and saw moving into the abandoned houses as a sizable increase in their standard of living. They felt that since they were not Ba'athist, they had as much right to the vacated houses as the Coalition authorities. There continue to be some five thousand of these Iraqis living in the Green Zone.
The Green Zone is also home to a small garrison of American troops who guard it and man the checkpoints leading to it. They are typically a battalion of soldiers at FOB Prosperity, under the command of the Multi-National Division - Baghdad. Additionally, a battalion of coalition soldiers from the Republic of Georgia used to man some of the checkpoints in the International Zone. Some of the original inhabitants who did not flee also continue to live in the area. Many are undocumented squatters in the area referred to as the "215 Apartments".
The Green Zone is completely surrounded by high concrete blast walls, T-Walls and barbed wire and access was available through a handful of entry control points, all of which were controlled by Coalition troops. This has led the insurgents to frequently shell the Green Zone with mortars and rockets, though these attacks cause few casualties. In October 2004 it was hit by two suicide bombings, which destroyed the bazaar and the Green Zone Cafe. On April 12, 2007, a bomb went off in the Iraqi Parliament cafeteria, killing Mohammed Awad (a member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front) and injuring 22, including one of the vice presidents. The Green Zone was shelled daily following Easter 2008, causing numerous civilian and military casualties. On April 6, 2008, two U.S. soldiers were killed and 17 more wounded when a rocket or mortar attack struck inside the green zone.
Since the handover of sovereignty to Iraqis, many of the facilities in the Green Zone have been turned over to the new Iraqi government. It is still a base for western private military contractors, and home to the U.S., British and Australian. embassies. The permanent U.S. embassy is currently being built in the southern Green Zone, overlooking the Tigris River.