Control of 'Awakenings' now in Iraqi government

The guards will now be paid by the Iraqi government instead of by U.S. troops.

Control of 'Awakenings' now in Iraqi government

U.S. forces put the Iraqi government in charge of tribal guards in Diyala province north of Baghdad on Sunday.

The tribal guard units, known as "Awakenings" and made up mostly of Sunni Arabs including former insurgents, have been on the front line against al Qaeda members, who made a stand in Diyala after being driven out of other parts of Iraq.

The guards programme raised a force of about 100,000 paid volunteers across the country.

"I consider (the handover) a major step, especially in a province that once was a hot spot, where the Awakenings had a big role in achieving security," Diyala governor Raad Rasheed told Reuters by telephone before a ceremony to mark the event.

The guards will now be paid by the Iraqi government instead of by U.S. troops. The government says it will take 20 percent of the guards, across Iraq, into the regular army and police and gradually demobilise the rest into civilian jobs or training.

The United States says would remove its combat troops from the streets of Iraqi towns by the middle of this year, under a pact which came into effect on New Year's Day and which calls for full U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011.

But standing down the mainly Sunni guard force will be a tricky task for the Shi'ite-led government in the coming months. Some guards say they fear being abandoned or arrested.

In Diyala, which has remained one of the most resisting parts of Iraq as other areas have become less resistant, the guards have often borne the brunt of attacks by al Qaeda bombers.

Last Mod: 04 Ocak 2009, 15:11
Add Comment