Captain Christopher Loftis, commanding officer of C company, 2/25 in Tarmiya, was trying to feel out a group of Iraqi men who hoped to join the Sons of Iraq movement. The men were standing around a checkpoint that flew the yellow flag of the Anbar Awakening movement at an intersection a few miles outside of town, and he was asking them how things were going.
The response was the same each time: “more weapons” to fight the insurgents. Loftis would smile, shake the man’s hand, and move on. It was the usual request, always denied, but given that these men weren’t even under contract to provide security, the plea was a little premature. The captain had come out to this checkpoint in front of a former Saddam-era uranium processing plant not just to meet these men, but the men who organized them, along with about six hundred others who wanted a contract with the American Army to provide security.
The Sons of Iraq program, begun in the spring of 2007 and funded by U.S. taxpayers to the tune thus far of $123 million and counting, is basically a private militia—80,000 strong at this point—hired by the American military to help fight the insurgency. Not surprisingly, the success of the SOI has produced conflict with the Iraqi government. At a meeting the day before with the local Iraqi police commander, the police complained that two people had been kidnapped and released by an “illegal checkpoint” manned by the SOI the night before, and that some of the men at these new checkpoints were wearing masks. The police commander wanted to make some arrests, which brought the American civil affairs officer assigned to Tarmiya, Major Guidry, to the edge of his seat. “Just get their names and give them to us,” Guidry warned. “We don’t want to put you in a position where you’re in conflict with Abna al-Iraq [Arabic for Sons of Iraq],” The police colonel frowned, but agreed not to do anything drastic.
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