Some of the police officers went to the offices of Sheikh Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening of Iraq political party that jointly controls the provincial council. Together they called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reverse the Interior Ministry’s order, calling it sectarian.
In 2005 tribes in Anbar began turning against Al Qaeda in Iraq. By 2006 these forces had coalesced into the Anbar Awakening. They eventually began receiving American aid, and thousands were recruited into the local police force. In Ramadi, one of the hotbeds of the insurgency, 400 tribesmen joined the police in November 2006, followed by 1,000 in December, and another 800 in January 2007. By March it was reported that 6,000 Awakening fighters were in the province’s security forces, with another 2,500 in Emergency Response Units. Some were sent for training, but others were not. This was all part of an American strategy to divide the Sunni population from the foreign led Islamists, and to create an indigenous police force. The move was welcomed at the time by Baghdad, who saw the Awakening as an Iraqi creation.
Since almost all of the police in Anbar are from tribes, the number the Interior Ministry wants to reassign is so small, and the government has never been opposed to the Awakening, it’s hard to see the move as a political one. In fact, the Interior Minister Jawad Bolani ran with Sheikh Abu Risha in the Unity of Iraq list in the March 2010 election. The real question seems to be why can’t the 410 Anbar policemen be sent to a police academy since 95 others are already headed there. The move also comes at a time when Al Qaeda and other insurgents are trying to assert themselves with renewed attacks to coincide with the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The Ministry’s order then can only create tensions in the province at a sensitive time, and should be reconsidered.
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