Improved security in Iraq in recent months has been attributed to a combination of the surge, the truce observed by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, and the effectiveness and commitment of the councils, which are drawn from Sunni Arabs and probably the most significant factor, according to most analysts.
Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the US military of using them to clear al-Qaida militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.
A telephone survey by GuardianFilms for Channel 4 News reveals that out of 49 Sahwa councils four with more than 1,400 men have already quit, 38 are threatening to go on strike and two already have.....
In Dora, a southern suburb of Baghdad, the leaders of a Sahwa group of 2,400 men said they were considering strike action because none of the 2,000 applicants they had put forward for jobs with the police and military had been accepted.
The Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki has found jobs for only a handful of the Sahwa fighters.
The fighting in the city of Kut broke out after factions of the Mahdi Army militia attacked checkpoints around the city amid a crackdown by Iraqi troops.A joint U.S.-Iraqi operation also targeted a Shiite militia stronghold in the volatile city of Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, and at least 12 suspected fighters were detained, local police said. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.