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From the Christian Science Monitor, via Danger Room - headline: Sons of Iraq made Iraq safer. What's their mission now?
A good question, that. Now that everyone's "awakened", what shall we have them do? The sub-headline - "The US military is trying to transition 103,000 Iraqi neighborhood guards into steady work" - seems like the right answer to me*.
But the careful reader will see a subtle difference between that statement and this one from within the story: "US commanders would like to transition 100 percent of SOI into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) as soon as possible." That 100 percent claim stands out as a bit odd in a report that includes this:
The US is also trying to push SOIs into the commercial sector with the Joint Technical Education Reintegration Program (JTERP), a fledgling initiative that will provide paid vocational training in fields like carpentry and plumbing. And the US has created the Adhamiya Civil Service Corps, a collective of workers that can be hired by local contractors.I've seen many media reports carry the false assertion that the desire is to move "all SOI members" into the Iraqi Army (Wired even quotes it as fact in their very brief link to the story) - but the CSM report is the first I've seen to refute its own claim.
Transitioning to the ISF may prove difficult, as the story also explains that "As of May 31, only 17,000 (about 15 percent) of the SOI had joined the ISF" even though "SOI members receive $300 a month from the US, a small amount even by Iraqi standards (low level Iraqi Army soldiers make roughly double)."
There's little by way of explanation beyond speculation as to why that might be so (but this is Iraq, so that's understandable). But I would speculate that (in simplest terms) one reason among many is that in Iraq (as in America), not everyone who's willing to defend their neighborhood is willing to defend their nation. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but as threats diminish the need for the intense neighborhood watch does, too, and the pay for service rendered becomes increasingly difficult to justify (or increasingly similar to "protection" of a different sort). But this is also true of the larger Iraqi Army, and as justification for neighborhood watch groups declines the justification for a large standing army falls, too.
But there's no denying the need to gainfully employ the guys at the end of the road with the AK47s. For a while the SOI pay is valid. For a while beyond that it may be necessary. But there's another race ongoing in Iraq - another battle to be won. Coalition forces are well aware of this, and have shifted emphasis since the start of this year from combat to "non-kinetic" operations - rebuilding infrastructure, reviving an economy, and creating opportunities for the people of "post war" Iraq. Expect the pace of rebuilding to increase as foreign firms come seeking their piece of the action now that doing so involves significantly less risk than it did one year ago (thanks in part to those guys at the end of the road with the AK47s, who by the way would like to speak with the construction supervisor, if you please...) The positive upward spiral is nascent, but real, and acceleration is more than just likely.
Meanwhile, the guys at the end of the road seem to have established a 300-dollars-a-month comfort zone - and military service isn't the only thing they're avoiding at this time:
But, if initial interest is any indication, the Army may have a difficult time. Only about 10 percent of SOI in Adhamiya have applied for the JTERP program, says Capt. Gus Giacoman, ISF coordinator for 1-2 SCR and from Spring Lake, North Carolina. He says the jobs lack prestige.A reserve component, perhaps?
"It's the Arab honor," says Captain. Giacoman. "Now, they have that honor of 'I guard the neighborhood' ... and you've got to find ways to let them keep it."
More on rebuilding programs:
*At least, partially right. While its in the interest of the US military to get these fine folks gainfully emloyed, I'm not sure its their mission. (But as has been the case in Iraq for five years now, I suppose someone has to do it - and that's another topic worthy of discussion...)
I asked MNSTC-I that question about converting the CLC to reserves last Dec. Their response was:
"For now there is no consideration given to a Reserve Force. Not that it isn't going to eventually be a reality but for now the focus is on the fight and filling the security forces into the critical areas of Baghdad, filling the leadership shortages, and continuing to fill the ranks of the IA to 120%. CLCs are joining security forces but most are going into the police forces. The CLCs are really local and the police forces are the best fit for these groups. The CLC ranks are totaling over 77,000 right now and not all are able to join and there are not enough police jobs for all to join. Those who are joining may not stay over the long haul but those who are joining are doing very well."
I probably should ask again, but the new team isn't organized enough to answer my e-mails yet.
The Iraqis could use a reserve component and I think that this perfect answer. Of course, they may need to send some to school first to pass the literacy requirement for the IA.Posted by DJ Elliott at August 3, 2008 06:58 PM
This spring when I was interviewing the 3ID/MND-C brass, I asked different senior officers about the issue of what to do with the SOI members, and about reports that Shia government leaders were blocking the movement of Sunni SOI into the military. They admitted Shia vs. Sunni was part of the problem (especially expressed in foot-dragging), but also pointed out that many of the SOI did not meet Iraqi military standards for age, health and education. In May, toward the end of 3ID's time at MND-C, there was a strong effort to roll the SOI into their push for developing and professionalizing the local police--it was in early stages, but they were very excited about one town in which a local police force had been stood up for the first time since the war and consisted almost entirely of re-trained SOI. They were also working hard to give SOI civilian/business alternatives, but said (as mentioned here) that the latter was meeting with very limited success.
But the idea that the US is trying to push a huge percentage of SOI into the ISF is just wrong.
I agree, I think some kind of Reservist/National Guard system is the solution. Perhaps even a "neighborhood watch" kind of program in which people can serve a day/weekend a month assisting heir local polic somehow...Posted by FbL at August 4, 2008 06:15 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(2) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)