With their military offensive into the Anbar Province yielding mixed results, at best, the Maliki government is turning back to the same strategy the United States used during their occupation of Iraq: recruiting Sunni tribal fighters as irregulars to target al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
The recruitment drive has managed to attracted thousands of fighters, with promises of weapons and money from the central government attracting many back, but opening new questions about the way these “Awakening Forces” were unceremoniously dropped by the government after the US pullout.
“The problem in Anbar goes far beyond funds or services. It is a problem of mistrust and marginalization,” warned Anbar MP Hamid al-Mutlaq. The Maliki government indeed made a point to distance itself from the Awakening Forces almost the moment they were transferred control from the US, accusing them of being terrorists and reneging on promises to integrate them into the military.
The government has set aside $20 million to subsidies to new Awakening fighters, and while many see fighting AQI as a top priority, many see another inevitable conflict with the Maliki government as soon as they’ve again outstayed their usefulness.