Iraq Seeks to Break Up Sunni Fighter Units

Shiite-led gov't fears US-backed militias will become rival force
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2007 11:20 AM CST
a security volunteer patrols in the primary Sunni Azamiyah neighborhood of north Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2007. Iraq's Shiite-led government has said that American-backed Sunni groups key to...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Iraq's Shiite-dominated government is demanding that Sunni militias who are helping fight Islamic extremists eventually disband, fearing they will otherwise turn into their own military force. The militias, called Awakening Councils, or Concerned Local Citizens, comprise more than 70,000 Iraqis, including former insurgents, and are funded by the United States.

"We completely, absolutely reject the Awakening becoming a third military organization," said Iraq's defense minister. The government promises to hire a quarter of the Sunni militiamen into its security forces and provide vocational training to the rest for other jobs, but will deny them separate headquarters. Violence in Iraq has dropped 60% in the past half year.