Control of Awakening Councils transferred to Iraqi government
Full administrative control of some 54,000 Awakening Councils members in Baghdad was transferred from US forces to the Iraqi Shiite-led government effective Wednesday, dpa reported receiving from the al-Arabiya news channel.
The transition of the Awakening Councils to be under the control of Iraq's government was inevitable and was initiated by Baghdad, which will take over the payment of their contracts, US forces Deputy Commanding General William Grimsley said in a statement.
The Awakening Councils - also know as Sons of Iraq - are some 99,000 Sunni tribe members, who, repulsed by al-Qaeda's killings of civilians, allied themselves with US forces. They crushed al-Qaeda militants and have succeeded in driving out a large number of militants since 2005.
The tribal groups, armed for years, were supported by US money and training, receiving 300 dollars per month.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki previously made a commitment to integrate 20 per cent of the Awakenings Councils in the Iraqi security forces.
"The government has committed to accepting about 20 per cent of them into the Iraqi security forces including the Army, the Iraqi Police and the National Police. We would like to see more, as would they (Awakening Councils), but we'll continue to negotiate that," said Grimsley.
As Iraq's governmental infrastructure has strengthened, it has become more capable of employing the members and will soon take over full control of the Awakening Councils, Grimsley explained.
"Most of the Awakening Council's members are young, unemployed men who want to help their local areas and be a part of the future of Iraq," Grimsley said.
Abu al-Nour, an Awakening Council member in the western Iraqi provice of Anbar, said that the Iraqi government should not think of dissolving the Awakening Councils in case it failed to find them jobs in the Iraqi army, police and security forces.
This was especially so, considering that some of the Sons of Iraq group were high-ranking army officers before the ouster of the Saddam regime, he said.
The Iraqi government has said that those who do not get a job with Iraq security forces will acquire employment in the civilian sector, backed by the government, Grimsley said.