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January 12, 2009
SoI: DiyalaBy Greyhawk
Continuing a series begun here.
As 2008 drew to a close, Adam Weinstein, MNC-I Public Affairs, sent us the following update on the transfer of the Sons of Iraq program to Government of Iraq control.
Progress for Peace: Reconciliation
BAGHDAD – Along with a new year, Iraq is ringing in an important step toward national reconciliation and sovereignty on Jan. 1, 2009. On that date, the nation’s government will take over control of the Sons of Iraq from Coalition forces in four key provinces across the country -- including Diyala, one of the most diverse provinces, where al-Qaeda in Iraq once terrorized and intimidated local residents.
In all, 76 percent of the nation’s SoI members will be under Iraqi government responsibility by New Year’s Day.
“We are beyond the tipping point with the Sons of Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, the chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multi-National Corps – Iraq. “They have invested in the future of Iraq. And the Iraqi Government is offering them hope in the future. They’re going to be part of that.”
The transfer marks a dramatic turnaround in Diyala province in particular. “Diyala is a small Iraq,” said Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, vice chairman of the Iraqi Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation. Home to Kurds as well as Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis, the region is more varied than Baghdad, where SoI members have already been successfully transferred to Iraqi control.
In 2007, this mostly Sunni area northeast of Baghdad had been considered one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq, and it lacked an infrastructure to support many basic services for its residents. But, as AQI’s targeting of innocent men, women and children in areas like Diyala took its deadly toll on residents, concerned local citizens joined a movement called the Awakening and organized neighborhood watches to roll back terrorist gains in their communities.
The following year, the movement’s members -- who came to be known as the Sons of Iraq -- joined forces with the Coalition to fight AQI, with spectacular results. The addition of more than 100,000 SoI members helped to thicken the security forces and enabled the improved security environment experienced today.
“They have been critical to finding caches, bringing down IEDs, keeping al-Qaeda out of the towns, because they know everybody,” Kulmayer said. “They know who’s who in their towns and villages.”
Now, after helping bring greater stability to the region, 20,000 SoI members in Diyala, Babil, Wasit and Qadisiyah provinces will have opportunities to serve their country in new roles. In early December, they began to register with the Iraqi government to receive their regular paychecks. As responsibility for the SoI transfers to the government on Jan. 1, the group’s members will transition into a variety of meaningful jobs intended to secure the nation’s future. Twenty percent are slated to join the Iraqi Army or Police; the rest will enter public or private employment in a variety of roles, from civil engineering to electrical maintenance to working in the government’s multiple ministries.
“The goal of this program is to eventually hire these people into meaningful jobs,” said Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commanding general of MNC-I. “While many of them are working in security positions right now, ultimately they’ll transition and go into other meaningful jobs, and that’s the goal.”
The program has met with a number of challenges. Before working with the Coalition, many of the SoI actively resisted it. Some members worry that their previous activities might be held against them.
So far, though, the SoI and the government have interacted well, confirming that this is “the leading edge of reconciliation,” according to Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general of MNC-I.
In the past three months, more than half of the country’s SoI have already been transferred smoothly to Iraqi control, including all the group’s members in Baghdad. SoI registration in Anbar Province is nearly complete, in preparation for a Feb. 1 transfer to Iraqi control. Ninewa, Kirkuk and Salah Ah Din provinces are scheduled to transfer in early spring. Authorities said a rehearsal of the Diyala transfer on Dec. 23 went off without a hitch.
“Diyala is considered to be a very complex province, but in fact the registration of the SoI has gone very well,” said Kulmayer, adding that nearly 9,000 SoI members would register with the government in the province. “We have a very large turnout there. It’s exceeding the expectation of how many would come in and register.”
“The Sons of Iraq feel as if they’re being taken care of,” Austin said. “They’re apprehensive, but that’s to be expected. This is new and building trust takes time.”
Civil Service Corps projects continue to be the main focus of non-security job efforts, with more than 4,100 SoI currently enrolled in various apprentice programs. Iraqi-led jobs programs for the SoI, such as CSC and public works projects, remain in development. The government of Iraq is also looking at opening a number of job-training centers around the country to address the needs of unskilled SoI members.
“Those results have come about because of determined leadership,” Austin said.
Ferriter echoed those comments, adding that, at the end of the day, all the parties were on the same page. “We have a common goal: We don’t want the Sons of Iraq to turn to al-Qaeda,” he said.
“The Coalition forces don’t want that; the Iraqi Prime Minister doesn’t want that. Together, we’ll make this work.”
Now that transfer has occurred...
Posted by Greyhawk / January 12, 2009 12:14 PM | Permalink
Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs and other sources around the world. If you're a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link to any of these stories, add a li... Read More
Third in a series, previous entry here. More from Adam Weinstein, on the near-future of the Sons of Iraq program. Anbar grassroots movement reaches milestone: Sons of Iraq registration underway By Adam Weinstein MNC-I Public Affairs December 26, 2008 B... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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