The Iraqi government will begin paying the salaries of 55,000 of the mostly Sunni fighters in Baghdad Province who joined the fight against Al-Qaida, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq said.

Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin said the United States will closely monitor the Iraqis as they gradually take over payments for the Awakening Council members, also called the Sons of Iraq.

"We will not abandon the Sons of Iraq," he said. "We will continue to follow up in the future to ensure that they get paid and that they do, in fact, transition to meaningful employment."

Some of the 55,000 shifting to Iraqi control will get security jobs, while the vast majority will likely end up working for Iraqi ministries or rebuilding and repairing damage from the war, Austin said.