Monday, January 28, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 28 Jan 2008

From AFP, 9,000 'Awakening' members ready for Iraq military training: US. (h/t LWJ)

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Some 9,000 members of anti-Qaeda "Awakening" fronts in Iraq have been screened and lined up for training as regular police or soldiers, the US military said on Sunday.

The number represents more than half the 16,000 or so Awakening members, many of whom are former Sunni Arab insurgents.

They have applied to join the regular Iraqi security forces after having been recruited by the US military to fight Al-Qaeda in their own backyard.

Military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a news conference in Baghdad that the rest were still waiting to undergo screening and for openings in police colleges and military academies.

"Around 9,000 members of the Awakening have been entered into a process in which they are in a queue to begin their training programmes," Smith said.

In western Anbar province, where tribal leaders in September 2006 launched the first Awakening group, effectively putting Al-Qaeda to flight, another "10,000 to 20,000 ... have already gone through a training programme and are serving as police officers or members of the army."

US troops have for the past year been working closely with former insurgents they call CLCs or Concerned Local Citizens, who are paid 300 dollars a month to patrol neighbourhoods and man checkpoints.

Their numbers have swelled to some 80,000 members of a total of 130 CLC groups countrywide, according to latest figures from the US military.

Of these, 80 percent are Sunni and 20 percent Shiite. In some neighbourhoods the groups are mixed.

Smith said only 20 percent of the 80,000 wished to join the security forces.

He acknowledged that Al-Qaeda had made attempts to infiltrate some of these groups but did not think it had made much headway.

"I don't think there has been a tremendous amount of infiltration of the Awakening groups," he said.

"There have been attempts to do so -- we recognise that. We also recognise that the Awakening groups are well-led, are well-civilised and (have) a strong tribal and communal connection.

"They know precisely who their members are -- our forces work very closely to weed out individuals who show the least signs of disloyalty to the overall efforts."

Al-Qaeda, he added, "clearly sees these Awakening groups as a threat to their existence" and could try to intimidate people not to join them or existing members to quit.