Since April 2009 there has been a hiring freeze on the Sons of Iraq (SOI). The Interior Ministry imposed the ban due to the 2010 budget, which did not allot enough money for new employees. It denied around 10,300 SOI as a result. The following month the Defense Ministry stopped taking in SOI as well, citing the security situation, and the coming parliamentary elections. Provinces have also been strapped for funds for the SOI.
The National Reconciliation Commission, headed by Zuhair Chalabi, is in charge of the Sons of Iraq. Chalabi told the Associated Press in December that the 2011 budget has $200 million set aside to pay the SOI. The government also plans on boosting their pay back up to the $300 a month they use to get from the Americans. When Baghdad took over the SOI they cut their wages. The problem is that officials are not sure whether the up coming budget has money to pay for former fighters who are given new government jobs. When Iraq took command of the SOI they promised to give 20% of the fighters employment in the security forces, and the other 80% would be placed in other ministries or the private sector. Chalabi recently said that no more SOI would be taken into the police or army however because the freezes by the Interior and Defense Ministry are going to continue into the new year.
Ultimately the future of the SOI will rest with the new Maliki administration. The prime minister is against integrating the SOI, while Chalabi says that he will finish the job. New actors will also be involved in the second Maliki term such as Iyad Allawi who is to head a to be created National Council for Strategic Policies, the Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi, and Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq all of which want the SOI to be fully integrated. However the financial and political restraints may be too much to overcome. The fighters are supposed to have enough money to keep them on their posts, manning checkpoints and carrying out patrols for one more year, but that may be their last. Already many have reportedly walked off their jobs to find work elsewhere because they no longer feel safe due to insurgent attacks and government neglect. With the highly coveted security field now off limit, more are likely to dissert, which may only leave those who lack the skills and opportunity to do anything else left. Their ultimate fate may be the unemployment line, which was where they might have been all along if not for the insurgency, and then the SOI.
The Sons were always a stopgap measure created by the Americans to split the Sunni nationalists from the Islamists and foreign fighters. It was only after the sectarian civil war ended, that the U.S. began pushing for the government to provide the SOI with permanent employment. Maliki and other Shiite politicians were always opposed to the program, and therefore dragged their feet when it came to integration. With the Americans leaving and future budget constrains, they may finally have the excuse they need to end the Sons once and for all.
Associated Press, “Bleak outlook for plans to help Sons of Iraq,” 12/16/10
Bengali, Shashank, “With U.S. presence fading in Iraq, ex-militia faces uncertain future,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/7/10
Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq June 2010,” 9/7/10
Sly, Liz, “Iraq plans to cut Sunni fighters’ salaries,” Chicago Tribune, 11/2/08
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/10
Wiseman, Paul, “U.S.-supported Iraqi militias clash with government,” USA Today, 5/27/09