The current zeitgeist of Obama’s post- (but not really post) ‘Global War on Terror’ is undoubtedly one of shadows, secret executions, and night raids. As US troops ‘drawdown’ in Afghanistan, and the failures of ‘nation building’ become evident, what will remain are Special Forces and drones in the sky (which now can be found in at least 6 different theaters: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen).
Special Operations, according to a 2010 Washington Post article, are deployed in a staggering 75 countrties, where they are used in unilateral strikes, training of local forces, and joint operations. The advantage of such shadow wars is they are rarely discussed in public, remaining secret geoopolitical weapons. The same source reveals that Special Operations commanders have a more regular presence and access in the White House than under the Bush administration.
Obama asked for a 5.7 percent increase in the Special Operations budget for fiscal 2011, for a total of $6.3 billion, plus an additional $3.5 billion in 2010 contingency funding. Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of the Special Operations Command, said “In some places, in deference to host-country sensitivities, we are lower in profile. In every place, Special Operations forces activities are coordinated with the U.S. ambassador and are under the operational control of the four-star regional commander.”
Of about 13,000 Special Operations forces deployed overseas, about 9,000 are evenly divided between Iraq and Afghanistan. While the CIA has authority to designate targets and launch lethal strikes in Pakistan, attacks such as those in Somalia and Yemen require civilian approval.
The Obama administration has based its lethal operations on the authority Congress gave the president in 2001 to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons” he determines “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the Sept. 11 attacks.
Yet many nations being targeted had nothing to do with those attacks.