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Concern Over ‘Concerned Local Citizens’ « The Washington Independent

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

When last we left the Concerned Local Citizens — the mostly-Sunni militias of ex-insurgents that we have euphemistically given a name befitting an old ladies’ neighborhood coffee klatch — the U.S. military was admitting that its system for ensuring they were only going after al-Qaeda was… trust. But, naturally, there’s more.

One of the larger questions about the CLCs, as the military calls them, is whether the Shiite-dominated Maliki government will give the mostly-Sunni militiamen jobs in the Iraqi security services. The outgoing ground commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, recently told the Los Angeles Times, "One of our biggest risks are CLCs and which way they’ll go." By which he meant: will the CLCs join the government, or fight against it — and U.S. forces as well?

Colin Kahl of the Center for a New American Security has an informed guess. As we were taking about the surge for my piece, he mentioned the following chilling piece of scuttlebutt: "I’ve heard multiple sources, inside and outside of the military and the administration, say they feel they’d be lucky to get 20 percent integration" of the CLCs into the Iraqi security forces. That means "you’re looking at something like 50 to 60,000 guys not integrated," Kahl said. "Will these guys be satisfied as trash collectors?" For that matter, the CLCs becoming trash collectors is contingent on the Iraqi government paying them to do so, and the Maliki government’s track record on such matters ain’t good.

What’s more, the idea that the CLCs who don’t get integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces will disarm flies against the face of four years of experience. Not a single Iraqi militia has been demobalized. None. There’s even a law on the books demanding it, called Order 91. No one cares. The people in charge of implementing that law have militias of their own. It’s very easy to create a militia. Dismantling one — that’s a different story altogether.

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