War on Terrorism

Friday, January 09, 2009

Coalition Ensures Long-term Employment for 'Sons of Iraq'

By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 9, 2009 - The coalition plans to see through the placement of "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group members into permanent jobs as they are transferred under Iraqi government control, Multinational Corps Iraq's chief of reconciliation said yesterday. "We don't intend to transfer [the Sons of Iraq] and abandon them," Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer said in a teleconference with military bloggers. "We intend to transfer them and ensure that they are provided meaningful employment in the future."

The Iraqi government has assumed responsibility for some 94,000 Sons of Iraq volunteers since the coalition began transferring the program by province, Kulmayer said. The transition began in October in Baghdad province, he said, which accounted for more than half of the Sons of Iraq with 51,000 transferred.

Diyala, Wasit, Babil and Qadisiyah provinces were transferred as of Jan. 1, he said, and the remainder of the nine provinces with Sons of Iraq will be transitioned by April.

More than 9,000 Sons of Iraq have been hired for full-time positions in the Iraqi security forces since the program started in 2007, Kulmayer said, and the coalition will follow through with the Iraqi government to ensure these citizens continue to be placed into permanent employment.

"Twenty percent will go into the Iraqi security forces, principally the Iraqi police," he said. "The remainder will be placed into permanent employment according to their skills, or they'll be given job training ... and then employment."

Non-security job placement will be a challenge due to high unemployment, Kulmayer said, however, the coalition will work with Iraqi ministries -- such as the housing and construction ministry and the education ministry -- to create positions.

"A lot of them will go into government work," he said. "So those [opportunities] are being developed, and we're trying to work with the Iraqi government to create them."

In the meantime, Kulmayer explained, they will continue to perform their Sons of Iraq jobs under the oversight and pay of the Iraqi army.

The Sons of Iraq assist coalition and Iraqi security forces by performing critical infrastructure security duties in their communities, such as manning checkpoints, guarding roads, providing intelligence and identifying enemy weapons caches.

"They thicken the battlefield because ... they know their neighborhoods, and they know who's who, and they know where the caches are," Kulmayer said. "By securing the infrastructure and the roads and the key points, they freed up the coalition and Iraqi security forces to go on the offensive after al-Qaida."

Kulmayer attributed the decrease in violence -- "at their lowest levels since 2003" -- in part to the contributions and sacrifices of the Sons of Iraq volunteers. More than 500 Sons of Iraq members were killed and more than 750 were wounded in 2008, he said.

"We really see [ensuring employment] as a commitment on our part to the Sons of Iraq who have helped us here and really, frankly, stood up for their country," he said.

(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity.)

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