by Adam Weinstein, MNC-I Public Affairs
In early November, as U.S. Soldiers looked on, Baghdad-based members of the Sons of Iraq got their monthly paychecks from a new boss: the Iraqi government.
"It was a critical step in the turnover of the mostly Sunni volunteers from Coalition to Iraqi control. And the Baghdad transfer has become a model for similar moves in four other key provinces," according to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, the chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multi-National Corps - Iraq. "The government is doing the right thing. Baghdad has gone quite well, and we expect that the rest of the provinces will do the same."
The Sons of Iraq, one of the war's good-news stories, occupy what Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, the deputy commanding General of MNC -- I, calls "the leading edge of reconciliation." A few years ago, many of the group's members considered Coalition forces their enemies; some fought against U.S. troops and their allies. But in June 2007, armed militiamen in Anbar province found they shared a goal with the Coalition: taking back their neighborhoods from al Qaeda in Iraq. "We helped organize them and eventually began to fund them to provide critical infrastructure and security throughout Anbar," said Ferriter, "and it quickly spread to many of the other provinces."