Since his inauguration in 2009, President Obama has overseen a shadowy and globalized war on terror that relies heavily on elite special operations units and an increasingly militarized Central Intelligence Agency. As of May 2012 U.S. special operations forces were on track to undertake missions in 120 countries around the world, up from approximately 80 the year before.
In addition to ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces along with the CIA have carried out airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. A veil of secrecy surrounding the administration’s drone program has made the cost of the strikes difficult to tally but reports by the UK’s bureau of Investigative Journalism indicate President Obama has presided over more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, with up to 891 civilians killed, including 176 children. In Yemen, U.S. strikes have taken the lives of three U.S. citizens, including 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. A strike in the remote region of al Majala in southwestern Yemen in December 2009 resulted in the deaths of 41 people, including at least 21 children.
Under President Obama, the United States played a crucial role in the 2011 military campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, which human rights organizations claim led to the deaths of 72 civilians, including 20 women and 24 children. Much of the administration’s involvement in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula has been made possible by the expansion of a secretive drone base in Djibouti, where the unmanned vehicles are said to conduct over a dozen missions in the region each day.
While Obama has claimed that he put an end to the Bush-era tactic of extraordinary rendition, in which terror suspects are captured and shipped to a third country for interrogation, a January report by the Washington Post revealed the administration has continued to embrace the practice. In addition, an investigation in 2011 by The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill uncovered secret prisons in Somalia used by the CIA.
Most recently the Obama administration has offered drone and aerial fueling support to French forces operating in Mali.