An al-Qaida safe haven? Really?

War games predicting what would happen after a U.S. withdrawal show the president may be wrong again about the effect of al-Qaida in Iraq.

By Alex Koppelman

Published July 17, 2007 2:13PM (EDT)

The Washington Post takes a look today at some of the military's recent war games, which have been aimed at predicting what exactly will happen if and when the U.S. withdraws from Iraq. Though loaded with all sorts of qualifications, the Post's report still shows that the war games have been contradicting conventional wisdom, showing a scenario that would unquestionably be bad for all involved, but perhaps not the massacre many have predicted.

"I honestly don't think it will be apocalyptic," Gary Anderson, a retired Marine colonel who served in Iraq and who has been running the war games, told the Post. But, he said, "it will be ugly."

The scenarios revealed by the war games thus far envision a partition of the country, with the Kurds closing themselves off in northern Iraq, the Sunnis being driven back into places like Anbar province, where they are a majority, and the Shiites fighting a civil war -- possibly with Iranian intervention -- in the south.

But what the Post's reporters themselves say is "most striking" about the results of the war games is how they seem to be just one more thing contradicting the president's recent statements about the influence of al-Qaida in Iraq, a group loosely affiliated with the main al-Qaida organization, and its potential power in the wake of a U.S. withdrawal.

"Post-drawdown scenarios focus on civil war and regional intervention and upheaval rather than the establishment of an al-Qaeda sanctuary in Iraq," the Post reports.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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