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U.S. Transfers Sunni Fighters to Iraqi Control

BY Admin  October 1, 2008 at 2:50 PM EST

Forces in Iraq

The U.S. military and Shia-led Iraqi government agreed in principle to the transfer of responsibility of all “Sons of Iraq” from Oct. 1, beginning in the province of Baghdad, reported the Agence France-Presse.

U.S. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond told reporters that Iraq will start paying the salaries of Sahwa men in Baghdad, which total $15 million per month, on Nov. 10. Sahwa means “awakening” in Arabic.

Control of the Sahwas in the Sunni areas of central, western and north-central Iraq will be transferred gradually, according to the AFP.

The fighters are mostly Sunni insurgents who battled U.S. and Iraqi forces in the aftermath of the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Then in 2005, the Awakening movement took hold in the Anbar province when Sunni tribal leaders turned against al-Qaida operatives and began working with U.S. forces.

The U.S. military put tens of thousands of Sahwas onto its payroll and provided them with equipment and training. Their salaries are estimated at about $360 million per year, according to the BBC.

The Awakening movement is credited with contributing to a downturn in violence in Iraq since late 2006.