President Obama has ordered airstrikes in seven different countries
Obama was close to ordering airstrikes in Syria in 2013
Obama is the fourth president in a row to order airstrikes in Iraq
He’s the war-ending President who, as of Tuesday, has ordered airstrikes in seven different countries (that we know of).
President Barack Obama has always acknowledged there are times when military force is necessary. Even when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he said there could be instances when war is “morally justified.”
But though he campaigned for the presidency on ending U.S.-led wars, Obama’s administration has certainly been willing to use force when it sees fit.
Here are seven places where the Obama administration is known to have ordered airstrikes:
America’s longest war became Obama’s responsibility when he took office in 2009, and like his predecessor he has ordered airstrikes against suspected militant targets in the country. The air campaign – which has utilized both manned aircraft and unmanned drones – has been a major sticking point between the U.S. and the local government, which has decried the high civilian death toll.
In May Obama announced a plan to withdraw most American forces from Afghanistan by the end of this year, leaving behind a force of about 10,000 to maintain security and train Afghan forces. With a new Afghan president finally confirmed, U.S. officials expect the long-awaited Bilateral Security Agreement to be signed soon, permitting the residual U.S. force.
Like in Afghanistan, militants have been targeted by U.S. drones flying over Pakistan, causing similar uproar when they strike civilians rather than suspected Taliban outposts. Obama acknowledged that concern during a major speech at the National Defense University in 2013, saying that U.S. strikes that kill civilians could have the effect of spurring radicalization.
In March 2011, Obama announced the U.S. would join allied nations to launch air strikes on Libya. The move came after a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing use of force to protect Libyan civilians, and though regime change wasn’t Obama’s stated goal at the beginning of the campaign, the airstrikes ended with the death of longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Since then the security situation in Libya has deteriorated. In 2012, four Americans were killed during an attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, and in July of this year, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was evacuated.
Facing threats from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Obama administration significantly ramped-up the use of armed drones. Nearly 100 attacks have occurred since 2009, according to estimates from the New American Foundation, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of militants, but also many civilians.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen has been a nexus of threats against the U.S., including the so called “underwear bomber” who tried to ignite explosives on a U.S.-bound airliner in 2009.
U.S. drones have targeted militants associated with al Shabaab, a terrorist network that perpetrated a high-profile attack last year at a mall in Kenya. Earlier this month, the U.S. targeted the group’s leader Ahmed Godane using commandos aided by drones, killing him in an area south of Mogadishu.
Citing a humanitarian crisis and potential threats to American interests, Obama ordered airstrikes to begin in Iraq in August, becoming the fourth president in a row to order airstrikes there. The Iraqi government, outmatched by ISIS fighters taking over broad swaths of land, welcomed the strikes.
The campaign broadened in September, when Obama announced he would begin targeting ISIS specifically. Instead of seeking specific authorization from lawmakers, Obama said he would rely on a Congressional authorization from 2011 that allowed the President to go after al Qaeda.
Obama’s latest front for airstrikes has been gripped by civil war for more than three years. Obama came to the brink of ordering airstrikes there in 2013, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on civilians. But after Congress balked, Obama backed away, brokering instead a deal to rid al-Assad of his chemical stockpiles.
How Obama came to launch strikes in Syria
A year later, facing a different threat in Syria in the form of ISIS and the al Qaeda offshoot Khorasan, Obama authorized airstrikes on terrorist targets alongside a coalition of other Arab states. Officials say the mission to defeat those groups won’t be won in day. Instead they’re predicting a sustained effort that will surely be left for the next commander in chief to carry forward.