Six months

Concerned Citizens leaders in Al Haswa region meet with US Army to discuss the security situation. Photo by Bill Roggio. Click to view.

As the movement against al Qaeda in Iraq picks up steam in the provinces, the gap between the locally formed auxiliary police forces and the central government threatens to erode the gains in security made over the past several months. US military officers are warning that they believe there is a limit to the amount of time these groups will operate without receiving official recognition from the central Iraqi government.

In recent months, the Concerned Citizens movement (also called Iraqi Police Volunteers, Concerned Local Citizens, Concerned Local Nationals, auxiliary police and a host of other names) has spread from Abu Ghraib in western Baghdad province, to the “Triangle of Death” cities of Iskandariyah, Mahmudiyah, and Yusafiyah, and the Al Haswa, Arab Jabour, and Salman Pak regions in southern Baghdad province. Concerned Citizens movements have sprung up inside Baghdad, as well as in Salahadin, Diyala and Ninewa provinces, and even to the Shia regions of Wasit province.

Most recently, the Concerned Citizens movement has spread to Tarmiyah, which was once one of the most violence towns in Iraq. Coalition raids netted al Qaeda leaders and operatives in Tarmiyah on a near daily basis. Multinational Forces Iraq described Tarmiyah as “a stronghold for financing, planning, preparation and communications in support of al-Qaida. Kidnapping, ransom, extortion and murder against Tarmiyah residents funded the insurgent operations.”

Tribal leaders organized an “awakening ceremony” on September 12. “They publicly recognized and denounced terrorist activity and called for volunteers to step forward to protect their families and homes.” The volunteers have been organized as the “Critical Infrastructure Security Contract Force” and work with US and Iraqi forces.

The tribes have also organized in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq’s second most populous city. Unlike most of the Concerned Citizens movements inside Baghdad and the regions close to the city, the Mosul forces have the support of the Iraqi government, according to Azzaman. “Sheikh Fawaz al-Jarya said the tribes will initially form two battalions whose members will be armed and financed by the government,” Azzaman reported.

The sanctioning of the auxiliary police follows the example of Anbar province, where 10 battalions of Provincial Security Forces were formed with the approval of the central government. These auxiliary police forces receive abbreviated training, as well as weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, and pay from the Ministry of the Interior.

The Concerned Citizens movements in and around Baghdad have yet to receive official recognition from the Iraqi government, so the US military is paying the salaries of the volunteers while they are prohibited from arming them. In some locations, the Iraqi Army or police work directly with the Concerned Citizens in some capacity.

While the Shia-dominated Iraqi government is willing to support the auxiliary police movements in the hinterlands of Anbar and Mosul, there is hesitation and deep distrust with sanctioning these movements close to the capital. The Concerned Citizens hope to be able to integrate into the Army, National Police, or local police forces, but many of the volunteers do not meet the age, physical, or education standards of the established security forces.

US military commanders have warned the Concerned Citizens movement cannot be sustained indefinitely without recognition from the central government. “We estimate that the time frame the Concerned Citizens need to be recognized by the Iraqi government is about six months,” said Brigadier General Jim Huggins, the deputy commander for Multinational Division Center, during a battlefield circulation at Patrol Base Hawkes. Multinational Forces Iraq fears the volunteers will become disenchanted with the central government if they do not receive official recognition by the central government, Huggins says.

Lieutenant Colonel Ken Adgie, the commander of US forces in the Arab Jabour region, echoed Huggins’ sentiments while at Patrol Base Murray. “We’re two and a half months into this, things will get tougher in the next four months,” he said.

While it is unclear if six months is a reliable estimate, recent developments with the volunteers in Diyala province indicate the estimate may be somewhat accurate. Members of the Baqubah Guardians are expressing displeasure at the lack of recognition by the Iraqi government, and are seeking to become official members of the police forces.

The Guardians formed up six months ago as the fight against al Qaeda in Diyala heated up. In April 2007, members of the 1920s Revolution Brigades, a nationalist Sunni insurgent group, turned on al Qaeda in Iraq in Baqubah and Buhriz and formed the “Guardians.” The Guardians hunted al Qaeda in Iraq and worked alongside US and Iraqi Security Forces to battle the terror group during operations in the spring and summer; they have helped maintain security in Baqubah and Buhriz.

The debate in the US over reconciliation lacks the proper context. Critics of the Iraq war claim reconciliation is impossible until the national government mandates the terms of reconciliation. But reconciliation is already occurring throughout Iraq at the local level as Sunni and Shia tribes and insurgent groups organize against al Qaeda in Iraq and Shia extremists. In the short term, this is more important, as the regions can demonstrate their sincerity by securing their neighborhoods and reducing al Qaeda’s ability to regenerate and stage attacks into the capital.

In order for reconciliation to occur at the national level, the gap of distrust between the central government and the local, volunteer security forces must be closed. Accommodations must be made for the volunteers to become a legitimate arm of the security forces, whether as part of the local police, National Police, or Army, or as in Anbar province, part of the provincial security forces.

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • paladin says:

    Is the iraqi gov’t generating enough revenue to pay for the CCM’s as well as the reconstruction projects that accompany them?

  • the nailgun says:

    Bill – You are evidently of the view that the wonderful improvements in these people’s lives by evicting AQI and the US pay cheques are not enough to hold these groups together?
    Recognition is a powerful force in the human pysche but I am alittle surprised by how worried you sound about this given how much better their lives must be due to their cooperation.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    nailgun, I didn’t express the concern, commanders in the field that deal with these groups on a regular basis have. What they are saying is that as security improves, the issues of legitimacy/recognition and a permanent status/paycheck rise to the top. I suspect these differences aren’t significant in the short term, but as time goes on the group will want to be recognized. We won’t be there forever to pay them.

  • anand says:

    Excellent question that isn’t asked nearly enough. Most of Iraq’s GDP comes from oil exports. Almost all of Iraq’s government’s annual revenue comes from oil. Almost all of which goes to the central government.
    One place to look for data on the government of Iraq’s projected spending and revenue are IMF reports:

  • the nailgun says:

    Bill thanks for quick response and apologies for inferring it was your personal view versus those you were reporting.
    Given the concerned citizen groups won’t be required for too long a period ( or am I overly optimistic?) does it make sense to perhaps just give them some sort of legal recognition/basis and leave them as a separate organisation to be hopefully de-mobilised in the not too distant future?

  • the nailgun says:

    scrap that last comment the article itself pretty much answers my query.

  • ECH says:

    the nailgun,
    These forces want to become paid local police forces for their areas.
    I don’t think the Iraqi government even really trusts any Sunnis at this point in time. I don’t go as far as Strategy Page does in saying that the Shia led government wants to rid Iraq of Sunnis forever, but I think the government would rather there be no Sunni armed groups with any power in Iraq.

  • bb says:

    Is this worth the US drawing a line in the sand with the Central Government? If these groups are capable of keeping their areas clear and reducing the need for US soldiers then our government needs to demand their recognition or threaten to withdraw forces. It’s time for Malaki to stand up and lead. Violence is way down and it’s down in part because these groups are ready to make a deal. If Malaki can’t be bothered then perhaps we shouldn’t be bothered much longer either.

  • Achillea says:

    When is the next election in Iraq, and how likely is it to change the foot-dragging dynamic in the central government?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “When is the next election in Iraq, and how likely is it to change the foot-dragging dynamic in the central government?”
    Governments run on bureaucracies. It can take up to 90 days for an elderly person in the US to begin receiving their social securiity benefits. US Veterans report similar timeframes in receiving various benefits as well. Lots of folks in the Military will tell you it took two or three months to start receiving their pay raises after promotion. These are all mature bureaucracies administering long established programs. Go ask any US reservist who served in Iraq how long it took from the time Congress passed enhanced VA benefits for Reservists who deployed to Iraq until they actually got them…close to a year.
    While some of the delay could certainly be attributed to various political motivations…normal government bureaucracy is going to impose delays…does in the US…will in Iraq.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    I have to agree with SD.
    It is normal in the US Navy to be “frocked” for one to six (up to eleven) months before being paid for a promotion.
    When I went to TAP class (pre-retirement), they recommended having three months of living funds since it may take that long for the retirement pay to kick in. Dispite the fact that the retirement papers are filed six months to a year before retirement. DFAS pays all DoD: active, reserve, retired, and civilian.
    Up to three months for a pay account to move from one computer in an office to another computer down the hall in the same building.
    That is the US military’s glacial pace and the military is faster than most of the rest of the Government’s. Why should the young Iraqi Government be faster?

  • Neo says:

    I don’t think anyone anticipated the pace at which this movement has spread. It appears as if the Iraqi government wanted to deal with the Sunni awakening movement at arms length. It preferred having these informal armed police away from Baghdad and major Shiite areas.
    The pace of events has obviously overtaken this sort of approach. From your report it looks as if this movement has taken hold all around Baghdad’s periphery, all areas with a significant MNF/IA troop presence it seems. I’m not sure how antagonistic the Shiite government is to these developments, but I’m sure the Iraqi government doesn’t quite believe its luck either. What’s needed from the Iraqi government is some sort of ad hoc working group to facilitate and organize these groups. Something dedicated to just this situation with a fair amount of latitude for action and direct high level contact with the Iraqi government and all the parties directly involved; the tribes, remnants of militia groups, MNF & IA forces in charge of the area, the affected government agencies.
    Whatever efforts they are making toward this are going to have to be expanded quickly. The point is to facilitate and if possible shape events rather spend too much time trying to manage everything. Whatever down side there is to this will have to be dealt with when it comes up. I’m much more worried about finding extra resources for all this, than government antagonism.

  • Achillea says:

    That is the US military’s glacial pace and the military is faster than most of the rest of the Government’s. Why should the young Iraqi Government be faster?
    Well, the argument could be made that the Iraqi government’s very youth could make it faster — newer organizations generally being less ‘ossified’ than older ones.
    Be that as it may or not, however, this article indicates that the Iraqi government isn’t moving quickly enough on this. That may be due to bureaucratic lethargy, cluelessness on the part of key players, or sectarian malice, but the question remains — what effect are new elections likely to have on it? Presumably, Sunnis will gain greater representation, but beyond that … ?

  • the nailgun says:

    Bill – I presume you have already read in your article in your sidebar titled “Tribal Members Join in Effort To Assist US.,Iraqi Forces” that the author is saying the Iraqi Govt HAS ordered full cooperation with the salvation/concerned citizen groups and for them to be integrated into Army/Police.
    Even says the announcement came early September which I certainly did not hear of until now but the article is unequivocal
    2nd para in and elsewhere

  • anand says:

    Achillea, a larger percentage of eligible Sunni Arab Iraqi voters voted on 12.15.05 than Shia Iraqi voters. In addition, a smaller percentage of Iraqis are Sunni Arab today than 12.15.05 (many have fled to Syria and Jordan since then). Therefore, Presumably, Sunnis will gain [less not greater] representation”

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