FOB WARRIOR, Iraq (March 12, 2009) – The U.S. military made its last payment to “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group members March 2 in Kirkuk province’s city of Sudayra.
The Iraqi government will assume full responsibility of payments April 1.
"This is one of the many milestones that the [Iraqi government] is hitting day by day," Army Capt. Justin Michel, commander of 1st Cavalry Division’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "This transfer is a necessary step that the [Iraqi government] is taking to show its citizens that it is taking the lead on more programs."
U.S. military members played the role of observers as Iraqi soldiers handled the payments.
"This is a great step in the right direction," Sheik Farhan, a Sons of Iraq leader in the Sudayra region, said. "Each day the government of Iraq is growing stronger, and we are becoming more independent."
By assuming responsibility for the payments, “Iraq is showing us that they are truly taking over from coalition forces," Sheik Razzaq, of the Sons of Iraq, said.
Though the U.S. military will no longer be responsible for making payments to the Sons of Iraq, they will not be completely removed from the process in the coming months.
"Just because the [Iraqi army] is going to be in control doesn’t mean we are going to be gone altogether," said Army Lt. Col. David Lesperance, commander of 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. The Iraqi army, Sons of Iraq and coalition forces are going to be working side by side in the coming months to ensure that the transition goes well, he added.
As security improves in the region, transferring control of the Sons of Iraq to the Iraqi government marks another step toward self-sufficiency and increased security in Iraq. The Sons of Iraq and Iraqi army have done a great job so far at improving security, Michel said. "I think that will continue to build upon the foundation they have now, and the region will steadily become safer," he added.