Since the change in counterinsurgency strategy early this year — including the increase of the number of US troops in theater, pairing them with newly formed Iraqi units, and pushing the units into areas previously ignored — Iraqis have formed local security forces called Concern Local Citizens. These groups are often made up of tribal militias and former insurgent forces that have turned on al Qaeda in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, and other radical extremist groups.
The Concerned Local Citizens are little more than ad hoc auxiliary police forces. Nevertheless, their impact on the security in their areas is large. Lightly armed and wearing uniform that is often nothing more than a reflective road guard vest, the Concerned Local Citizens provide security in their neighborhoods by establishing checkpoints, conducting patrols, providing intelligence, and accompanying Iraqi and Coalition forces on combat missions.
The groups receive no arms. They are, however, often paid directly by US forces. The Iraqi government is slowly considering the status of these local forces. In some cases they are integrated into local or national police forces or into the Iraqi Army. In many cases, the Iraqi government is hesitant about integrating these Concerned Local Citizens groups into the security forces, as some leaders and many members just recently fought against the Iraqi government.
Inspired and sometimes assisted by the Anbar Awakening, the ranks of the Concerned Local Citizens have skyrocketed since the surge began. “Currently, there are approximately 72,000 active Concerned Local Citizens, which includes approximately 60,000 Iraqis on contract which are being paid a monthly wage, and another 12,000 serving as CLC volunteers,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported on December 9. Another 17,000 have served in the groups but are no longer active.
There are Concerned Local Citizens groups in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, and in many of the provinces, the groups are still forming. “There are currently almost 300 CLC groups throughout Iraq… There are 1800 former CLC members who are new full fledged members of the ISF, with 10,000 former CLC in Anbar ISF…”
This is not just a Sunni movement, as Shia groups have and still are forming to stop the influence of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. In some areas, Concerned Local Citizens groups are manned by both Shia and Sunni members.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry stated Concerned Local Citizens will be integrated into the police forces, but did not specify a timeframe. “All tribal fighters in the different Iraqi provinces will be merged into the police forces within a national project to attract young men seeking jobs in the Iraqi police without any political interferences in this respect,” Major General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf al Kinani, the head of the ministry’s national command center, told Voices of Iraq on December 4. “[The Interior Ministry] has formed a committee to train tribal fighters and another to consider whether they should have special uniform. The law is above all. There will never be armed groups outside the framework of the law.”
American commanders have stated that it is unlikely that all 72,000 volunteers can be integrated into the official security forces given ISF growth projections — especially as improved security in certain areas reduces the need — and are advocating plans to transition some Concerned Local Citizens employment into rubble removal and other public works projects.
Sources on data for the presentation include Multinational Forces Iraq, Voices of Iraq, Reuters, and The Associated Press.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.