Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

US counterterrorism operations touched 85 countries in the last 3 years alone

By George Petras, Karina Zaiets and Veronica Bravo | USA TODAY

Nearly 20 months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier under a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner and declared “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Nearly 18 years later, the U.S. is still entangled in military action in the Middle East and beyond.

After the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq following 9/11, much of the U.S. military activity has been focused on counterterrorism efforts, either in direct combat, through drone attacks, border patrols, intelligence gathering or training other nations’ security forces.

These globe-spanning operations have cost the U.S. in blood and treasure and had a massive impact on populations around the world. Newer nonmilitary threats from climate change to cyberattacks raise questions about the utility of holding on to hundreds of foreign bases and deploying tens of thousands of troops overseas.

Though Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria were once top of mind for the American public, the footprint has been much larger — and more recent — for the American military. New data from researcher Stephanie Savell for the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute shows that over the last three years the U.S. has been active in at least 85 countries.


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