War on Terror

Trump Ramps Up American Military Action Abroad

Bombing campaign in Yemen intensifies as additional troops head to Syria, elsewhere.

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White House

Despite candidate Donald Trump's welcome sometimes-critical look at long-standing entangling U.S. alliances and arrangements, there was little doubt given his rhetoric on the war on terror that he would ramp up military involvement. He redeclared the war on terror in his inaugural—putting a new face and new rhetoric to a decades-long fight.

Fifty days into the Trump administration, the new contours of the war on terror are starting to take shape. Foreign Policy reports of a renewed bombing campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen following a late January raid the Trump administration insisted was a holdover from the Obama administration. According to Foreign Policy, the Obama administration "handed over plans for a stepped-up campaign to the incoming Trump team in January" and that there'd been "an immediate change in the tempo of operations." The U.S. has now reportedly dropped more bombs on Yemen than in any previous year. Of the 26,000+ bombs the U.S. was estimated to have dropped in 2016, 34 were attributed to Yemen.

According to Foreign Policy, the Trump administration has seen military decisions untethered from much of the policy and bureaucratic deliberations that reportedly slowed down action during the Obama administration. Yemen and the U.S. campaign against AQAP was once lauded by President Obama as an example of a new kind of counterterrorism effort, one with a more limited footprint—the the country collapsed into a civil war after rebels alleged to be backed by Iran ousted the U.S.-backed government out of the capital. Saudi Arabia has since led a military coalition to return the government of Abdrabbuh Hadi back to power. Following the bombing of a hospital, the U.S. suspended some arms sales to Saudi Arabia late last year, but those have been resumed under the Trump administration. Al-Qaeda has benefited from the civil war, gaining territory with the help of a Saudi bombing campaign that, as Foreign Policy explains, is exclusively targeting the Houthi rebels. AQAP can fill the void as, for example, when they took over the port city of Mukalla and began to collect millions of dollars a month in taxes and fees.

The Trump administration is also considering an increase in troop levels in the 15-and-a-half year war in Afghanistan, where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has recently established a presence. Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Egypt, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee a "few thousand" more troops above the 8,500 still deployed in Afghanistan were needed to break a "stalemate" with the Taliban, the Islamist group the 2001 U.S. invasion ousted from power for harboring Al-Qaeda after the September 11 terrorist attacks. At that time, Afghanistan was probably the only country left where Al-Qaeda could set up a base—16 years of U.S. interventions have opened up space in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere. ISIS, the threat most of the military operations under Central Command target, is a competing militant group to the Taliban in Afghanistan, with any potential alliance possible largel because of a U.S. presence.

Votel also suggested more ground troops were required in Syria—U.S. troops started to arrive in late 2015 to battle ISIS. American troops were also redeployed to Iraq for that purpose. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the U.S. was deploying an additional 400 troops into Syria, almost as many as are currently there, ahead of the campaign to take Raqqa, ISIS' self-proclaimed capital. The U.S. is deploying 2,500 additional troops to a staging base in Kuwait in support of the campaign against ISIS, Military Times reported, although military leaders would not speak to the paper about the plans for the troops.

"There are a number of options under consideration as the coalition looks for ways to accelerate the defeat of ISIS," a statement from the U.S. military command in Baghdad read, according to Military Times. "We continue to believe that the most effective way to achieve a lasting victory is to do it by, with and through our partner forces who have the greatest stake in the outcome. For operational security reasons, we will not discuss future deployments or contingency operational planning."

The Iraqi government took no formal diplomatic action after it was included in President Trump's first executive order travel ban, instead lobbying members of the administration to be removed from the next version. Iraq's removal from the ban was also recognized as being motivated by its assistance in the campaign against ISIS.

Finally, the Trump administration has also signaled its willingness to expand use of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling it a "very fine place" to hold unlawful enemy combatants, and suggesting the military would decide whether to hold suspects there and whether and how to prosecute them, a shift from Obama administration attempts to prosecute such individuals criminally where possible, and in line with the Trump administration's privileging of military decision-making priorities in the conduct of the war on terror.

The Trump administration inherited battlegrounds in the war on terror all over the world and, thanks to years of Congressional inaction, few limits to how to interpret the post-9/11 authorization of the use of military force (AUMF) which has been used since its passage as legal justification for just not the Afghanistan war but military actions in places like Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq after the Iraq war-related withdrawal, against not just Al-Qaeda and "associated forces" but offshoots like ISIS which have become rivals. During the campaign, Trump suggested he would be open to some kind of Congressional vote on an AUMF specifically for ISIS, but despite a bipartisan push no such votes have yet materialized.

NEXT: Justin Amash Very Sad After Missing First Vote in Congress. Hug Him If You See Him.

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  1. We’ve got the best bombing campaign. It’s the greatest. You’re get bored with bombing bad dudes.

    1. *You’re gonna get bored

      *sigh* Even Donald wouldn’t have messed that up

  2. Christ, what an asshole.

  3. Where’s his campaign ribbons for fighting off the STD’s?

  4. Alternate alt-text:

    “This is my serious face. Now suck my cock.”

    1. I gotta say, Zeb, this new you turns me on a little.

      1. Being serious has become too depressing.

        1. I hear ya, man. Not much worth taking seriously these days.

  5. File photo on article will be Trump’s remembered getup (like Fidel’s fatigues or Ghandi’s bathroom-towel look) after the coup installs the junta.

  6. The Trump administration is also considering an increase in troop levels in the 15-and-a-half year war in Afghanistan

    WDATPDIM?

    1. Nobody wants to be the last soldier to die in that pointless war, and this way, nobody has to be!

      1. It’s The US vs The World and that’s the way, uh huh uh huh, we like it.

      2. Always look on the bright side of life!

  7. Maybe if Amash wasn’t gallivanting around missing roll call votes, he’d have time to introduce a bill in Congress to sunset the AUMF and demand Congress authorize any new military action?

  8. MASA: Making America the Same Again

    1. He shoots, he scores!

  9. But I was assured that Trump was a non-interventionist that was going to clamp down on dumb, unnecessary foreign interventions?

    In all seriousness, it’s sad that the AUMF has essentially become a de facto constitutional amendment granting the president the power to start wars wherever and whenever he wants just as he long as he can somehow tie it to some group that has any connection, no matter how indirect, distant, or convoluted, to 9/11.

  10. You can’t kill an idea only those who hold those idea’s therefore never ending war because unless they have some kind of mind reader how will they know when to stop. So save up your bottle caps I see nucular war YEE HAW!!

  11. My advice is to save the desperate war deflection for when the stock markets crash again.

  12. Not surprised about attacking ISIS. That was advertised. But a buildup in Afghanistan?

    1. Chapman wrote a surprisingly non-pants-shitting article on Afghanistan

      https://reason.com/archives/201…..fghanistan

      Add that to Ed’s article, and it looks like actual journalism has broken out for a moment.

  13. Well, McCain and Lindsey are now on board.

    Next stop: Ba ba baba bah bomb Iran. Temporarily on hold since Flynn fucked up real good

  14. We are at war with terror; we’ve always been at war with terror.

  15. More and continuing war in Afghanistan!!?? What Trump? Another LIE? Remember what you said Trump? “We’re gonna strengthen our military so much so we WONT HAVE TO USE IT.” So much for any hopes of “taking care of America 1st”, Trump is continuing the ole UnPatriot Act of nation building/bombing/rebuilding the same countries since the early 90s while America has to wait last again. Another Super-hawk Giant neocon in disguise pretending to be “for the people”, “America 1st again”, a YUGE LIE man, is what it is. Bring all troops home now from the middle east! Let them eat sand, but bring our troops home 1st damnit! We the people are sick of the neocon/sellout democrat agenda! Not 1 person in Flynt, MI has safe drinking water, but oh we gotta keep sending troops to that shithole the middle east, WTH Trump! If you love America Trump you will stop with this never ending John McCain/wetdream of nation building in the middle east and Get Out Now, like Dr. Ron Paul said – “we Never should’ve stepped on Arab soil”. And Trump, you say “Saddam wasn’t such a bad guy”, then do the constitutional move and bring our troops home where they spend there pensions here, Safely, and near thier Families, where it matters MOST, stimulating OUR economy, NOT Afghanistans! Stop the resource grabbing and Unconstitutional Nation building!

    1. What good is strengthening a military if you never have to use it?

      Besides, it is how Drumpf will create jobs: expanding government, but doling out the profits to the private sector. Yes, more enlistment is needed. Those Flint people should offer many recruits.

      Missiles, weapons to be built. No bid contracts for Halliburton. Plenty of jobs to be created at Boeing, Lockheed… HEY MAGA!

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  17. This article answers the decades old question. ‘that depends on what is is ?’

    is is = considering, could, would.

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