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The United States has military presence in over 130 countries, according to a Department of Defense report for 2008. No other nation in the world has such widespread global military presence.
According to The Center for Research and Globalization, an independent research organization, “The United States Military is currently deployed to more locations than it has been throughout history.”
Not only does the U.S. have military in a significant number of countries, but it also has diplomatic relations with almost every country.
A June 29, 2009 report from the State Department indicated that there are 192 countries in the world. The U.S. has diplomatic relations with all but four: Bhutan, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.
Simply put, foreign policy decisions made by leaders elected in the United States directly impact the rest of the world.
While the effects of our military deployment impact those who know someone in uniform, many U.S. citizens rarely see the consequences, unless they make headline news.
U.S. troops today are stationed throughout the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and Kuwait. While some countries are home to military bases, others require military disaster relief after a crisis, like a tsunami. Others have become battlefields, resulting in the deaths of U.S. soldiers and foreign civilians.
Military presence is defined by any nation where the U.S. has a miitary base, where the U.S. is providing military aid, active duty military personnel, or where U.S. soldiers are engaged in combat theaters.
The 2008 Department of Defense Base Structure Report, which details military real estate, indicates that the U.S. military has 761 properties overseas.
Arguably, the United States’ strongest military presence since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has been in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just last Friday, a US soldier serving with NATO was killed in an attack in eastern Afghanistan, along with five U.N. workers. In response to the bombings, the U.N. is pulling out 600 international staff from the area because they cannot protect them from Taliban attacks.
While fighting picks up in Afghanistan, soldiers continue to fight in Iraq and civilians face bloody, unprecedented attacks.
To learn more about the U.S.’s military presence in Iraq and its effect on the people, reference the Brookings Institute Iraq Index.
In the PBS Frontline special “Obama’s War,” President Obama said, “The situation [in Afghanistan] is increasingly perilous. Many people in the United States have a simple question: ‘What is our purpose in Afghanistan? Why do our men and women still fight and die there?’ They deserve a straightforward answer.”
Later in the documentary, correspondent Martin Smith records the Obama Administration’s answer to the question. Richard Holdbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Obama Administration, said the mission is for the people of Afghanistan.
“We have to remember why we’re here. We’re here to help the Afghan people stand up on their own feet,” he said. Holdbrooke continued by saying the U.S. isn’t nation-building, but rather nation-rebuilding.
According to a graph of Pentagon data in the March 26, 2009 edition of USA Today, the U.S. had approximately 1,300 troops in Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. had 90,000 in Iraq just before the war in late 2002 and had up to 150,000 in 2003 at the start of the war.
Today, the U.S. has 38,000 troops in Afghanistan and 124,000 in Iraq, but the Administration is debating sending more troops in the coming months to Afghanistan.
USA Today reports that by August 31, 2010, Obama intends to end combat missions, leaving about 35,000 to 50,000 troops in Iraq.
But Robert Mackey in the New York Times’ The Lede Blog quoted Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Sept. 21, 2009 saying the military will need at least 68,000 American troops to “defeat the Taliban.”
According to The Washington Post’s “Faces of the Fallen,” there have been 5,130 U.S. deaths in Iraq and 804 in Afghanistan as of September 2009, but those numbers have increased since the report, which was last updated on Sept. 8, 2009.
The death toll for Iraqi civilians reached 110,000 as of April this year, according to the Associated Press. The New York Times reports more than 2,000 Afghan civilian deaths in 2008, increasing by 40 percent from the previous years.