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Whither Al-Anbar Province? Five Scenarios through 2011

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Occasional paper

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What does the future hold for Iraqs al-Anbar Province This question cannot be reliably addressed by attempting straight-line projections from the recent state of affairs or by extrapolating present trends into the future. These approaches will necessarily fail because the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, including Marines from al-Anbar Province, will create a vacuum in the way security is achieved and power is exercised throughout Iraq. As U.S. Marines draw down in al-Anbar, significant changes can be expected throughout the province in security, political, economic, and even cultural relationships. Al-Anbar can thus anticipate a period of potential instability as new factors emerge that will affect the exercise of power and other governmental functions. Precisely how provincial leaders and other actors will sort out these new challenges during and following the departure of the Marines will determine its future. While we cannot know these outcomes in advance, we can bound our understanding of the future by developing plausible scenarios for al-Anbar over the course of the next three years. That is the purpose of this study. Multiple futures are possible for al-Anbar. On one trajectory, the province could achieve a modicum of political stability, providing effective governance and services and promising a hopeful outlook for Anbaris. On a rather different trajectory, the province could head into a period of deep political chaos, either struggling for its own survival against a Shia-run central government or against itself in an internal conflict among Sunnis fighting for their own particular interests. Other, less-extreme possibilities between these polar outcomes also are possible, though not necessarily more likely. this study identifies five relatively distinct futures, or scenarios, for al-Anbar that provide plausible but alternative trajectories for the province between early 2009 and the end of 2011.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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