By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 31, 2008 - Iraqi concerned local citizens groups are a "boon to security," and the Iraqi government soon will run this program, the commander of Multinational Security Transitional Command Iraq said today. Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik told military analysts in a conference call that while the concerned local citizens program now is run by Multinational Corps Iraq, "the government of Iraq is very much a part of the program, and at some point ... they will run this program."
The program is an outgrowth of the "Anbar Awakening," in which local tribal leaders tired of terrorist violence looked to coalition and Iraqi forces for protection and began cooperating with them.
Early on, coalition authorities described the groups as neighborhood watch-type organizations, but they have become much more. Concerned local citizens groups have expanded around Iraq and are manning checkpoints, providing intelligence to coalition and Iraqi forces and locating and turning in roadside bombs, those who build the bombs and terror groups that stockpile weapons.
About 70,000 Iraqis are involved with the groups today, all funded by the coalition. But the Iraqi government has acknowledged its responsibility to take over the program, Dubik said. The government "recognizes the concerned local citizens have been a boon to security," he said during the interview. The idea is that roughly 25 to 30 percent of those involved in the groups ultimately will transfer to Iraqi police or military forces, he said.
Government ministers recognize the risk in accepting these groups, because some of the members may have been former insurgents, but it's a risk the government is willing to accept, Dubik said.
The general's command has worked with Iraqi officials to develop a three-tiered vetting system for members of the groups to apply for jobs with the Iraqi police. Tier 1 is vetting applicants through local governments, local coalition forces and local Iraqi commanders, Dubik said. Tier 2 is at the provincial level, and Tier 3 is at the prime minister level with the Iraqi Committee for National Reconciliation.
"Once a person is vetted through those three levels, his nomination is moved to the Ministry of the Interior, the MOI hires that person for a 90-day temporary contract, then a person is hired permanently," the general said. "It sounds bureaucratic and it is, but we have hired over 10,000 people under this system already, mostly in Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala."
The bureaucratic process, though, also builds in Iraqis the confidence that government is taking pains to hire trustworthy people for the police, he noted.
Even hiring as many as 30 percent of those involved with the concerned local citizens groups for the police, however, would leave roughly 50,000 Iraqis now affiliated with the groups without jobs. "The others will go into some other civil service corps, vocational training or other job-related training," the general said. "That system is still in development."
Dubik said his command will work with Iraqi ministries on this transition.