War on Iraq
Iraq's Tribes Critical to Future Security
November 14, 2008
The success of Sunni Arab tribes to contain the once unbeatable al-Qaeda in the so-called Sunni Triangle has prompted the government to rely more and more on tribal forces to reinstate stability.
It was the U.S. which first saw the potential the tribesmen and their leaders have in maintaining law and order in their areas.
The U.S. financed and armed tens of thousands of Sunni tribesmen who in less than one year did what U.S. military might had failed to do in nearly four years.
The once violent cities like Falluja and Anbar are now even more peaceful than many quarters in the capital Baghdad -- thanks to tribal chieftains and their fighters.
The success of the emerging tribal militias in the country's most restive areas was for the government a good example to follow to subdue other violent regions.
Even in central and southern Iraq, the tribes are now given tasks which usually have been the prerogatives of the armed forces.
But the experiment has paid off handsomely.
These tribal militias work in close coordination with the armed forces and their role has been pivotal in helping Iraqi troops spread their control.
Iraq now has a state minister for tribal affairs.
"These support councils, (a euphemism the government uses to refer to its tribal militias) have their loyalty to the state and the law and it is necessary that they do not speak or belong to any political faction," said Mohammed al-Uraibi, the minister.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is said to be fascinated with the idea of raising more tribal troops and has appointed a special advisor on tribal affairs.
Aboud Habeeb, the advisor, now says the government "will enact a law to organize and legalize the presence of support councils."
The government is now forming such councils in provinces and cities adjacent to the semi-independent Kurdish enclave.
The strength and courage these tribal forces have shown in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq is a matter of real concern for the Kurds. Before the emergence of tribal militias, al-Qaeda about to defeat the U.S. troops in the country.
Kurdish militias, know as Peshmerga, are in control of large swathes of land outside their traditional areas but have dismally failed to impose law and order in them.
If such tribal forces are deployed in these areas, Iraqi analysts say not only al-Qaeda will be gone but Kurdish armed presence too.
The Kurds have vowed to resist the formation of the force.