Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Many Sons of Iraq Have Actually Been Integrated By Baghdad?

An Iraqi police officer (left) and a member of the Samarra Sons of Iraq (right) in Salahaddin, Dec. 2008
The April 2010 Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report contains some important information about the integration of the Sons of Iraq (SOI). In 2008 the Iraqi government agreed to integrate all 94,000 plus of the SOI into the security forces or other Iraqi ministries by the end of 2009. Due to a series of delays and budgetary problems, that end date was pushed back until after the March 2010 parliamentary elections. That has come and passed and Baghdad is still no closer to providing jobs for all of the SOI, and in fact, it’s unclear how many have actually found employment.

There are two disputes surrounding the SOI numbers. First, how many have been integrated, and second, how many have found work. The SIGIR said that only 37,041 have been integrated as of April 2010, 4,565 into the security forces, and 32,476 into other ministries. That compares to Baghdad that claimed in January 2010 that it had hired 50,000 SOI, 15,000 into the police and military, and 33,000 in other government positions. A few days before, a U.S. general told the press that 40,000 SOI had been integrated, 10,000 in the security forces, and 30,000 into other ministries. That left 78,000 still receiving government wages doing their SOI work. Whatever the numbers are might not matter. According to the SIGIR, the Iraqi government claims an SOI has been transitioned when they are offered a job. Whether they actually get that position is not counted, and they are dropped from the government payroll regardless. That has been a major problem since many of the SOI lack skills or are illiterate. 81% of the SOI in Baghdad for example, only have an elementary or middle school education. Another issue is that many SOI have been offered menial jobs as a result such as picking up trash, and some have been offered work outside of their provinces, which greatly reduces their ability to accept.

Baghdad says that it is still committed to the SOI. It spent $270 million on the program in 2009, and has allocated an additional $50 million in the 2010 budget. In Diyala for example, the authorities told the press in March 2010 that they would start integrating 18,000 SOI into the police beginning in April. That has happened despite continued opposition by some in the government who think that the SOI are unrepentant militants. As a result, SOI are still occasionally arrested by the authorities. The real question is what will happen if the remaining 70,000 or so SOI have not been integrated by the end of this year. Right from the beginning it seemed unlikely that Baghdad would ever accept the SOI en masse. They were created by the Americans during the Surge with little to no input from the authorities, which caused resentment and mistrust. That doesn’t appear to have been overcome so it would be no surprise if many of the Sons Of Iraq end up unemployed and looking for jobs like so many other Iraqis currently are.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “40,000 Sahwa members into Iraqi institutions,” 1/11/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Diala police begins integration of 18,000 Sahwa fighters,” 3/22/10
- “Diala sahwa fighters quit checkpoints,” 1/23/10

Chulov, Martin, “Sons of Iraq turned the tide for the US. Now they pay the price,” Guardian, 5/13/10

Gisick, Michael, “’Sons of Iraq’ face weakened power,” Stars and Stripes, 1/3/10

Reuters, “Iraq Says 50,000 Former Insurgents In Govt Jobs,” 1/19/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10

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