At the end of December 2009, the deputy U.S. commander in Iraq said that the integration of the Sons of Iraq (SOI) by the government would be delayed until after the March 2010 parliamentary elections. When the details of the handover were originally worked out in 2008, Baghdad agreed to give 20%, roughly 19,000 SOI jobs in the security forces, and the rest would get other government work by the end of 2009. Budget problems and mistrust by the Shiite ruling parties meant this was an impossibility. Many members of the SOI are also illiterate and lack jobs skills, and many of the jobs being offered are menial ones like picking up garbage. By October only around 9,500 SOI had gotten security jobs, 6,800 had gotten work in the government, and 8,800 had found employment elsewhere. That left roughly 70,000 SOI with uncertain futures.
The deputy U.S. commander said that in 2010 the government will begin closing down SOI checkpoints, and turning them over to Iraqi police and Army units. They will still be doing their regular jobs until the March 2010 elections however, to help provide security. Baghdad has also said that it will continue to pay the SOI for the rest of the year.
If the major Shiite parties such as the Dawa, Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council or the Sadrists are the main part of any new government however, there is little likelihood that all the remaining SOI will find work in the public sector. The Shiite parties have long believed that the Sons of Iraq are unrepentant insurgents, who have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq, and therefore are not to be trusted. Iraq is also facing budget problems, which would make the integration of the SOI difficult even if there were a will to do so. The result has been only about 16,300 of over 100,000 SOI getting jobs within the government. A similar number will probably get employment in 2010, leaving the majority still relying upon checks from Baghdad. It will then be up to the U.S. to either keep pressure on the authorities for more to be integrated or to simply let the issue drop, leaving the SOI to their own devices.
Ahmed, Caesar, “Prominent member of Awakening movement arrested in Iraq,” Los Angeles Times, 11/10/09
Carter, Chelsea, “AP Interview: Sunni fighters must be treated fairly by Iraq, US commander says pm,” Associated Press, 12/26/09
Gisick, Michael, "'Sons of Iraq' face weakened power," Stars and Stripes, 1/3/10
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09
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