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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Iraq replaces 'Sons of Iraq' with its own auxiliary force

BAGHDAD — Less than four months after the disbanding of the Sons of Iraq, or Al Sahwa, auxiliary force, the Iraqi Interior Ministry has overseen the formation of a new unit created to thwart Al Qaida strikes.

The Guardians have been comprised of former Sons of Iraq officers, who do similar work, but have moved from the U.S. to the Iraqi government payroll.

"There is still a need for a Sons of Iraq-type organization that patrols neighborhoods and can spot terrorists," an official said.

In Baghdad, former Sons of Iraq officers have been organized into the Ghazaliyah Guardians for counter-insurgency missions. Ghazaliyah has been working in the same areas as the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division in conducting patrols, intelligence-gathering and securing the Joint Security Station in the Baghdad neighborhood of the same name.

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"Using this location and a combination of security forces, it ensures coalition forces will have the ability to collect information on the local nationals in and around the JSS," U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dana Pinkston said. "It improves security for everyone."

Officials said the new Guardians have maintained a low profile in wake of the Iraqi government decision to disband Al Sahwa. They said many of the officers in Guardians were in transition and would soon serve in either the military or security forces.

The auxiliary force was expected to remain throughout 2009 in Baghdad and other cities where Al Qaida operates. Officials said the Guardians would serve as a temporary home for thousands of Sunni officers who have not yet been integrated into the Iraqi security forces.

Al Sahwa was also manning roadblocks around Baghdad and other major cities. Officials said three-man Al Sahwa squads have been deployed on highways to the Iraqi capital to ensure security and safety.

"The SoI [Sons of Iraq] are controlled and paid by the local sheiks," U.S. Army 1st Lt. Christopher Henning, an adviser for Al Sahwa, said. "Right now, the U.S. forces are facilitating the money for the SoI, but soon that responsibility will be shift to the government of Iraq."



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