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Paramilitary Force

In December 2003 Iraqi and coalition officials unveiled a controversial plan to create an Iraqi paramilitary unit to boost the U.S. military's fight against an anti-coalition insurgency. Coalition officials said the new paramilitary force would be formed by uniting militiamen from the country's five largest political parties represented in the U.S.-appointed Governing Council.

Each party was expected to contribute as many as 170 fighters, including Shiite militiamen and the Kurdish pesh merga, who defended the country's northern autonomous Kurdish region from Saddam Hussein's army. US Special Forces troops would arm, train and work with the unit, whose operations will fall under the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and be overseen by the U.S.-led military command in Baghdad.

The battalion's initial focus will be on apprehending Saddam's Baath Party loyalists and other suspected insurgents in and around the Iraqi capital. Once the new counter-terrorism unit is deployed as part of Iraq's newly installed Civil Defense Corps, it is likely to give the five political organizations on the Governing Council an unrivaled role in the country's internal security.

The parties had long argued that their militias should be given more security responsibilities since they are better trained than existing Iraqi forces and better suited to fight Baathists and foreign Muslim extremists than coalition troops. But the plan has come under fire from critics who say giving counter-terrorism training to militiamen with allegiances to different groups could badly backfire on the US-led coalition.

Critics, including some independent members of the Governing Council, worry that Iraqi political leaders could use the fighters to pursue their own agendas, such as suppressing political dissent and targeting enemies. Coalition spokesman Dan Senor dismisses such fear. He said militia members would be recruited under rigorous conditions and as individuals, not as intact units. "Any individual that is recruited and serves must serve as an individual, under a new Iraq, unified Iraq security service," he says. "They cannot be serving to represent a political party or a particular militia." Leaders of the five parties had initially wanted to create a much larger force that would report directly to the Interior Ministry. But they say American officials rejected that proposal, saying a smaller unit under US control would be sufficient for now.

On June 2004 the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) transferred power in Iraq to a fully sovereign Iraqi interim government. CPA and the Iraq Governing Council took a fundamental step toward this goal in March 2004, when they signed the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period (the transitional law). The transitional law recognizes the Kurdistan Regional Government as the official government of the territories that were administered by that government on March 19, 2003. Article 27 of the transitional law specified that armed forces and militias not under the command structure of the Iraqi transitional government were prohibited, except as provided by federal law. The transitional law did not address the status of militias under the interim government or establish mechanisms to disband or integrate militias into Iraq’s security forces. However, CPA officials were working with political and militia leaders to encourage members of the militias to play a role in security by enlisting in the Iraqi Armed Forces and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. For example, CPA negotiated with Kurdish leaders on the transition of members of the Pesh Merga into national security structures, job placement, or retirement. State Department officials said that it would take time to address the transition of militias. As of 2004, four major militias and numerous smaller militias were operating in Iraq.

MilitiaPolitical Affiliation Location in IraqNumber [2004]
KDP Pesh MergaMilitia of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Northern portion 31,000 active
PUK Pesh Merga Militia of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Northern portion13,000 active
Badr BrigadesMilitia of Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Shiite Islamic Fundamentalist group that has ties with Iran Southern portion8,000 active
Mahdi’s ArmyFollowers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite leaderCentral and southern2,000-5,000 active

By 2010, with the increased exercise of central government authority over security forces, widespread and confirmed unauthorized government agent involvement in extrajudicial killings largely ceased, although there were reports of individuals using their security positions to settle personal grievances and grudges. In addition, there were reports of attacks by individuals posing as ISF.

Sons of Iraq [SoI] transitions to the ISF and civil ministries continued to be delayed in 2010 in order to maintain SoI as an added measure of security through the formation of the new government.

By 2010 many Shi’a militant members had transitioned from violence to political action. Remaining Shi’a militants had reorganized themselves into three different entities. Trained and funded by Iran, the Promised Day Brigade (PDB), the reorganized militant arm of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement, and Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) continue limited attacks against U.S. Forces, but are considerably smaller in size than they were in years past. The Shi’a militant group Asaib Ahl al-Haqq (AAH) had been in reconciliation discussions with the GoI, and has largely refrained from attacking U.S. Forces. However, the organization has fractured, with some militants returning to violence. The organization’s fracturing made it difficult to assess the leadership’s commitment to reconciliation.




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