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A War-Game Scenario of Iraq Withdrawal


A War-Game Scenario of Iraq Withdrawal

Hear retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson conducts war games for the U.S. military. Based on a number of recent games, he predicts Iraq would split along ethnic and sectarian lines, with Kurds, Shia and Sunnis occupying different parts of the country.


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Deborah Amos.


And I'm Noah Adams. In a few minutes, a star NFL quarterback indicted on charges of running a dog-fighting operation.

AMOS: But first, Republicans call it a cheap stunt. Democrats say it's a necessary tactic. The Senate stays up all night to debate the Iraq war - debate a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops. But what would happen after U.S. troops leave the country? Chaos? A full-blown civil war? A regional conflict?

We're joined by Gary Anderson, a retired Marine colonel who now works for a defense contractor that conducts war games for the military. Welcome to the program.

Mr. GARY ANDERSON (Retired, U.S. Marines): Thank you very much.

AMOS: You've participated in what? A dozen war games on Iraq? Does that give you an idea about the likely scenarios after a possible withdrawal?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, I've either played or supervised the playing of the various actors, both internal in Iraqi and external. So I kind of know what I think they would do if we precipitously withdrew and left kind of a vacuum.

AMOS: You know, precipitous is an interesting term, and I hear it all the time from the military. I don't think anybody in Congress is talking about precipitous. So can we talk about a phased withdrawal or a drawdown?

Mr. ANDERSON: That's what I would prefer, and you know, and that's what I'm hoping for. Quite frankly, I'm a lot more sanguine about General Petraeus's ability to handle the training in the Iraqi armed forces than I am about the Maliki government making the reforms necessary to keep congressional support.

AMOS: Those who are against a pullout and even some who are for an end to American involvement predict a bloodbath in Iraq, worse than what we're seeing today. Do you think that's possible?

Mr. ANDERSON: I think it's going to be very ugly. I don't foresee the Shia-Sunni bloodbath that everybody - that conventional wisdom says is going to happen, simply because that there aren't enough Sunnis to really put up that much of a fight. They can put up a guerilla fight and certainly will. I think what's going to happen - it won't be government policy - but I think the militias and paramilitaries will quietly, ethnically cleanse the Sunnis out into al-Anbar. But I don't think they're going to pursue them and do genocide, simply because there's nothing out there that the Shia want.

AMOS: So under that scenario, we look at an Iraq that's essentially partitioned, whether it's a hard partition or a soft partition. What you're saying is there'll be an area for Kurds, there'll be an area for Shiites, and there'll be an area for Sunnis.

Mr. ANDERSON: Unfortunately, I'm afraid absent - our influence that that would probably be most likely scenario. I think it is even more likely that the Shia would begin to fight amongst themselves for power between those that are pro-Iranian and those that are anti-Iranian.

AMOS: In the games that you've played - these war games - is there something that you can say about what the Iranians do and what the Syrians do - what all the neighbors do?

Mr. ANDERSON: I think you're going to see - if this scenario plays out, I think you're going to see the Syrians, the Saudi Arabians and other Arab Sunni states support the Shia both with security support and also with development money and so forth. What they don't want to have happen is they don't want this to become an al-Qaida nest like Afghanistan did. Because you know, as soon as they're done with Iraq, the jihadists are going to tell them they're next, and they'll go after them.

AMOS: And so here is a place where the United States and the Iranians have a common interest.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, we do. And I think that there is some potential commonality there. There is no interest whatsoever in Iraq that just totally collapses because they're going to have, you know, essentially the mother of all refugee problems. And I don't think that they can handle that.

AMOS: Do you think that the U.S. military will begin doing war games specifically on scenarios for withdrawal?

Mr. ANDERSON: I'm sure General Petraeus is out there. I know he is because he's got a (unintelligible) and so forth. There are going to be a couple of conferences by the Army and the joint forces command, as I understand it, in the next few weeks, dealing with the implications of various scenarios.

AMOS: All right. Thank you very much. Retired Marine Colonel Gary Anderson conducts war games for the U.S. military. He spoke to us from Jerusalem. Thanks a lot.

Mr. ANDERSON: Thank you.

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