Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sons of Iraq

Last week, my team travelled to Tikrit to sit in on a transition meeting between the Iraqi Army, Coalition Forces and contractors representing almost 10,000 Sons of Iraq contractors from our province. On March 1, the process for transition supervision and responsibility for Sons of Iraq (SOI) formally begins in the Salah ah Din province. There are over 2,000 alone in my area, and over the next several months, the Prime Minister ordered all to transition to the employ of either the Ministry of Defense or Interior (Army or Police) or to a position somewhere with the Government of Iraq.

So who are these Sons of Iraq guys? Listening to some, you would believe that a good deal of these individuals where the guys we fought pre-Surge, back in 2005-2006. There is a good deal of truth to that. For young men trying to put food on the table for their family, they based their roles as insurgents almost as much on economic opportunity as they did idealism. Now they are beneficiaries of Iraq’s National Reconciliation Program. Formerly, the insurgents and terrorists were among the few available employers to young Iraqi males.

Enter the Surge and the Sons of Iraq. Part of any decent counterinsurgency, is figuring out how to convince insurgents to lay down their arms and take up jobs. The brilliance of the Sons of Iraq is that now you let them to do both. Hundreds of thousands of Sons of Iraq took their weapons and under the guidance and supervision of Coalition Forces, boldly stepped into their new roles of providing security to the people of Iraq.

Many of them, who were part of the problem, became part of the solution. Together, they provided security coverage far into areas of Iraq where Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Army did not. The fought insurgents bravely, sometimes in spite of themselves, and ultimately many sacrificed their lives in the name of the Iraqi People.

Not all SoI were part of the insurgency that swept across Iraq. Many are hard working Iraqis taking advantage of classic economic theory. We had a demand for security, many of those young men stepped in to fill it. Some came from the other side as part of reconciliation, but most were just looking for jobs.

Back to this week, many were represented in that room in Tikrit. Their sheiks were there to receive a briefing from the Iraqi Division Commander and provincial Governor on the details of the transfer. When they opened the floor to questions, there were many: Complaints of inconsistent pay; unfulfilled promises from Coalition Forces; logistical support; compensation for fallen SoI. The sheiks asked hard questions and unfortunately, there were few answers.

Cameras lined both sides of the meeting room. Interviews conducted after the meeting indicated high degrees of both hope and pessimism. There is no question that the SoI were part of the formula that greatly reduced the violence. Some were argue that they were THE critical part.

The mission now is transitioning them over the Iraqi military control. It will not be easy. Our Iraqi counterparts have difficulty dealing with their own pay and administration. Now we will gradually load thousands of additional SoI and their related issues on the shoulders of the Iraqi Army.

Our counterparts appear to be up to the challenge. In the last week, they worked late into the night to come up with a plan to focuses on integrating control of the Sons of Iraq into our brigade, while emphasizing the treatment of SoI with dignity and respect. The latter is a difficult task, not so long ago many of the IA and SoI were on opposite lines of the counterinsurgency campaign.

Now, the leadership see the SoI as an extension of their operational reach, capable of providing additional security and intelligence to the Iraqi Army. This will be our most important mission over the next several months. So far, all is well. Personally, I want to see all the SoI integrated into their new positions within the Iraqi Security Forces or government employ. Count me in the crowd that does not want to see them cross back over to the other side.

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