Strategic overwatch sounds like the US will continue fighting in Iraq for 5 years, but it’s much nicer than what civilians think.

Right now, the US will continue its COIN strategy to secure the Iraqi civilian population. As the Sunni insurgency continues to lose, policing responsibilities will shift to indigenous forces. The Iraqi Army and Police have the long-term responsibility in the country. Like Algeria, a small number of radicals will continue fighting long after the war actually ends.

US forces will shift to what is called “strategic overwatch” for at least a decade (but probably for much longer). The US does this in South Korea, Kuwait, Germany, and for many other allies. The US forces will secure the allied government and ensure it remains democratic. An overwatch force will be roughly two divisions of troops plus air support. They will provide the Iraqis support in Intelligence, Logistics, Fire Support, and strategic backup.

Iraqis have weak logistics systems and require US assistance for air and sea transportation. So do most NATO and Arab allies. Logistics is a complicated excercise even for good armies. The US will offer intelligence support too, especially signal and image intel.

Strategic overwatch means that US forces will block Iranian forces from entering Iraq or creating proxy forces like Lebanese Hezbollah. If local Iraqi forces are overrun, the US can provide immediate backup. Generally though, the US forces will no longer engage in street patrols or day to day operations. The overwatch bases will look like the bases in Kuwait or S. Korea.

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