File - Sahwa members, a group of Sunni Arabs who joined forces with the U.S. military to fight Al-Qaeda at the height of Iraq’s insurgency.
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In Iraq, ex-militia program eyed for new fightThey were known as Sahwa, or the Awakening Councils – Sunni militiamen who took extraordinary risks to side with U.S. troops in the fight against Al-Qaeda during the Iraq War.Once heralded as a pivotal step in the defeat of the bloody insurgency, Sahwa later were pushed aside by Iraq's Shiite-led government, starved of political support and money needed to remain a viable security force.Now, the Obama administration is looking at Sahwa, which still exist in smaller form, as a model for how to unite Sunni fighters against the rampant Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) that has swept across most of the nation's north. As many as 3,000 core ISIS fighters, many of them foreign, are believed to be in Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Middle East this week to push Iraq toward creating a more inclusive government that equally empowers Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and potentially replaces Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as the best option to quell ISIS.Maliki for years promised American officials he would hire the Sahwa to diversify the overwhelmingly Shiite government security forces and ensure the Sunni militiamen would continue to be paid once the U.S. troops left the country.
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