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‘Sons of Iraq’ Transition Into New, Long-term Jobs

American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Feb. 17, 2009 – The transfer of the “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group to Iraqi government control and the transition into new employment and education activities is moving ahead according to plan, coalition and Iraqi government officials said.

"It's gone very smoothly," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jason Ward, the reconciliation operations officer for Multinational Corps Iraq, said. "Today, we've got just under 72,000 Sons of Iraq that have transferred to Iraqi control."

Sons of Iraq members in Anbar province successfully transferred to the Iraqi government Feb. 1, and in April, Salahuddin province will be the final province to transfer its grassroots security group.

"It is just incredible, the level of commitment so many people have shown towards the Sons of Iraq due to their security contribution," Ward said.

The Sons of Iraq -- who number about 94,000 in nine provinces across Iraq -- arose out of a grassroots movement in 2006 known as Sahwah, or "The Awakening," that united Iraqis who had grown tired of al-Qaida-inspired violence in their communities. In early 2008, the volunteers partnered with coalition forces to combat terrorist elements in their neighborhoods.

In light of their contribution, the Iraqi government and coalition forces are working to find new, long-term jobs for the group’s members.

Twenty percent will join the Iraqi police or Iraqi army, and the remainder will be employed in a variety of civil or private-sector jobs, Ward said. Iraq's panel in charge of the transition, the Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for Reconciliation, also is exploring an optional severance package for older Sons of Iraq members, which could be combined with vocational training.

In Baghdad, members have been under the Iraqi government’s responsibility for four months. The reconciliation committee collected skills surveys from the group's members to determine what jobs they were eligible for.

"Right now, they're in the process of analyzing that data," Ward said. The committee is expected to begin matching members' skills to the government ministries' open job positions Feb. 20.

Reconciliation committee member Zuhayr al-Chalibi said the Iraqi government is committed to completing the job transitions for Sons of Iraq members by year's end, so that government ministries could develop their 2010 budget requirements for the new workers.

Chalibi said he would work diligently to repay the group’s members for their sacrifices to the nation, no matter the cost.

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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