24 March 2009

Anyone have the number for Truck Masters? These guys might need that...

In the last two posts, we talked about how important it was for a counter-insurgency strategy to allow young males to have legitimate means of income. Unfortunately, The New York Times reports that a large number of young Iraqi males, the Sons of Iraq--who played a key role in the security improvements made in 2007--are about to get pink slips.

It would be misleading to give US forces all of the credit for the improvement in Iraq's security situation. Although many factors came into play, the Sunni Awakening movement, which began to kick off just before the Surge, provided many able-bodied young Sunni males who organized into a community watch program, policing the streets and assisting US forces in rooting out Al Qaeda.

The organization consisted, in many cases, of former insurgents. These "accidental guerillas" were offered reconciliation and a steady paycheck in exchange for assisting Coalition forces in policing the streets. The program was a resounding success.

Unfortunately, this meant providing a steady stream of money to former insurgents. The question always remained: what would happen if the money ceased to flow? It looks as if we're about to find out. With worldwide recession and oil prices at an all-time low, there's very little these young males can do for jobs. Quotes the New York Times:

Coinciding with the American military’s “surge” over the last two years, the Awakening movement is given broad credit for helping quell most of the violence in Sunni communities.

The program was never meant to be permanent, however; the idea always was to find them jobs and bring Sunnis into the security services and government.

General Ferriter said he was not concerned about the low number integrated so far, predicting that all 94,000 members would have government jobs by the end of this year. He said that so far, 3,000 jobs had been promised by the Health Ministry, 10,000 by the Education Ministry and 500 by the Oil Ministry.

But other American officials are not so sure, given the far weaker financial condition of the Iraqi government because of falling oil prices. “Do we really think the Iraqi government is going to bring 100,000 new employees in at a time when their revenue stream is taking a nosedive?” asked an American military official knowledgeable about the program, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

“You have to realize the Iraqi government may have an S.O.I. transition program, but Al Qaeda and all those groups have their own S.O.I. transition program,” the officer said, using the abbreviation for the Sons of Iraq.

No one has ever doubted that many of the recipients of the American money were once insurgents, some aligned with Al Qaeda at one time. Essentially, they were paid to change sides. They have paid a price: More than 500 were killed in the fighting that ousted Al Qaeda from their neighborhoods and villages in 2007 and 2008.

Maybe they can learn to be truck drivers. Anyone have the number for that truck driving school they have on TV--Truck Masters, I think it is? They might need that...

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