The Overt Withdrawal and the Covert Surge
So there is talk of Obama ending the Iraq War? And planning to draw down in Afghanistan sometime soon? Well, yes and no, on a number of levels. As we know, the decision to not keep thousands of US troops in Iraq was forced upon the Obama administration by the Iraqis, after the administration spent years pressuring for a remaining force. And withdrawing, is not exactly withdrawing when you consider the thousands of private mercenaries that will remain, the expanded “diplomatic” mission there, and the bases throughout the country (not to mention the largest Embassy in the world, essentially a military fortress). And for Afghanistan, there is still almost 150,000 troops there, and US and NATO military officials have repeatedly confirmed a remaining occupation of that country for at least the foreseeable future, and perhaps into the 2020s.
But The Atlantic gave us yet another perspective on the so-called drawdown of troops and supposed ending of wars. It speaks to what Nick Turse has called the “Secret War in 120 Countries,” namely the increasing use of covert elite forces like Joint Special Operations Command. This is a largely secret army that will again be another step back from those in power ever needing to declare war when they seek to wage it. As Obama supposedly “withdraws” from Iraq and Afghanistan, he is taking out the ordinary military we all know, and putting in his secret military:
The strain on the highly-trained forces will only increase as the Obama administration expands its shadow war against high-ranking militants in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, all of which have been the scene of targeted raids by elite troops in recent months. Senior Pentagon officials have also made clear that Special Operations troops will be used to conduct counter-terror raids in Afghanistan even as overall U.S. troop levels there begin to decline.
Elite forces like the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force don’t deploy for as long as conventional Army and Marine units, which usually spend six to 15 months in the war zones per tour of duty. But they deploy far, far more often. Many conventional troops have done four or five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. By contrast, Special Operations troops have done 10, 12, and even 14 tours.
“We’re getting real close to double-digit deployments across a number of different formations,” Lt. Col. Tom Bryant, a spokesman for the Army Special Operations Command, said in an interview. “Those numbers are becoming increasingly common and will be even more the norm down the road.”
The Special Operations world is the most secretive and insular component of the military. The Pentagon maintains several units and taskforces whose work – typically hunter-killer missions designed to track and eliminate militants around the globe–is so secretive that Washington won’t disclose their names or formally acknowledge their existence.