The current administration has become more secretive with informing both Members of Congress and the American people of troop deployments and military operations around the world than under President Obama. According to Ned Price, the National Security Council spokesman under President Obama, “The move deprives the public of information it has a right to know about the wars in which the US is engaging. The position of the Obama administration was that the American people had a right to know if servicemen and women were in harm’s way” (1)
Moreover, this new veil of secrecy has led to “…a staggering increase this month in civilian casualties linked to US-led coalition airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria” (2) that most of us are unaware of.
We are currently engaged in secret wars across the globe and we are being denied access to both the cost in terms of lives and money, and to the results. This is also complicated by Trumps exaltations to the military to ‘do more, do more, do it faster’ (3). These decisions seem to be setting the United States directly in line for conflict.
Trump has the support of many rights wing hawks. They desire an interventionist policy that calls for regime change (what they refer to as “getting rid of strongmen”) (4), and the establishment of pro-West and pro-Capitalism leaders that maximizes Wall Street profits. Never mind the abject failure of this policy since the 1950’s. In fact, the United States although much less imperialistic than many European countries has a history of this that dates back to the 19th Century. (1887 Samoan Civil War, 1893 Hawai’i 1898 Cuba and Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War, 1899 Philippine-American War etc.) (5)
In the modern era, it is widely believed that the US has intervened in Syria ‘49, Iran ‘53, and Guatemala in ’54. Anyway, you can find all this in a history book easy enough. My point is simply to create some historical context to understand how we got to where we are today.
Many on the Right are angry at President Obama because he tried to change the course of American foreign policy away from this failed history of regime change. (6). You may recall that in 2003 we invaded Iraq for….I’m gonna say, under the false pretext that they were threatening the US with nuclear annihilation. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that they did not have any WMDs, and when that finally made its way into the public eye, the mission in Iraq changed to “regime change”. As of today, April 12, 2017 we are still in Iraq. According to Trump just a few days ago “…our soldiers are fighting like never before” in Iraq (7) – I challenge anyone to describe exactly what they are fighting for or, in fact, to articulate a foreign policy of any kind on Iraq or the Middle East. It’s difficult to get an accurate count on the current deployment levels, but many different sources suggest an increase in operational tempo across the board.
My goal with writing this piece was to highlight the military deployments of US troops across the world, as best as I can. We have about 300,000 (or more) troops deployed outside of the United States, mostly peacefully. We also have thousands of troops actively perpetrating combat, many of them are concentrated in the Middle East. Most Special Operations activities as well as CIA operations will be classified and difficult to confirm. But here is what we know-
Trump has expanded military operation in Somalia, and has declared parts of southern Somalia to be an active combat zone. (8)
Although the official combat mission in Iraq was officially ended by President Obama in 2010, there are still an estimated 5000 US troops deployed there. (9)
This is another unbelievable conflict started by the last Republican president in response to, … I’m gonna say, untapped mineral reserves and oil pipeline access. Of course the official reason was that we were getting the people that caused 9/11 (never mind that the attackers came from Saudi Arabai and the UAE, not Afghanistan). But I digress. Currently 8400 US troops deployed there (10). Incidentally, more than 2,200 US troops have died there, the most recent one last Saturday. As with Iraq, I would love to see a justification for our involvement there. Are we fighting ISIS? The Taliban? Are we supporting the government or fighting against the government? Who is the government there?
Let’s not forget Trumps first attempt at making war with the failed raid into Yemen that left a SEAL and dozens of civilians dead. Although we are supporting the Saudi’s with munitions and air support, it’s not clear the extent to which we are there. (11) The White House is debating escalation in Yemen (12) which will put us into a proxy war with Iran, as they support the Houthi rebels we are already engaged with.
Not exactly a war, not exactly peace. If it didn’t look like we were going to be involved in conflict directly on the Korean Peninsula I wouldn’t even have mentioned this one. But there are 24000 troops deployed here. And Trump’s just sent the US Third Fleet there as well. With all the saber rattling going on at present, it seems germane.
With the latest clamping down on troop deployment information, it is difficult to know the precise number of US troops in Syria. The Washington Post reports that there are 500 Special Forces, 250 Rangers, and 200 Marines (with artillery). That same article reports that the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force with about 2,200 Marines are headed that way and the 82nd Airborne are on the way to Kuwait with about 2500 soldiers (14). In spite of them telling us there will be no boots on the ground, this sure looks like thousands of boots on the ground.
Additionally we have troops deployed to El Salvador (387) and Honduras (384), but these are likely drug interdiction missions (15).
Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS(AOM), NCCAOM Dipl. Acupuncture
- 13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_deployments