In his speech
"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."
While it is true that the US involvement in Iraq has wound down, no troops remain because the US was unable to obtain agreement on immunity for US troops from Iraqi law. Although US direct involvement in conflict in Iraq is over, the US still maintains the largest embassy in the world
in Iraq and at considerable cost:
"The Embassy of the United States in Baghdad is the largest and most expensive of any embassy in the world. At 440,000 square meters it is nearly as large as Vatican City. It also employs 15,000 people and cost $750 million to build."
Personnel at the embassy
are expected to almost double to 16,000 with the troops gone. About half will be for security and may include some US marines. Since the embassy is under US jurisdiction Iraqi law will not apply to the troops. The State Dept. received $2.1 billion for the operation in 2011 and asked for $6.2 billion for 2012, Over five years, the estimated cost for operations are $25 to $30 billion. The war may have wound down but the expenses continue.
In Afghanistan the US involvement is also winding down but the Afghans and the US have signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement
that will see the US continue its involvement and expenditures in the country until at least 2024. The provisions include:
"Commitment by the U.S. to seek funding from the U.S. Congress on an annual basis for social and economic assistance for Afghanistan as well as to support the Afghan Security Forces
Access to and use of Afghan facilities by US personnel beyond 2014
Granting the United States the possibility of keeping forces in Afghanistan after 2014 for purposes of training Afghan forces and targeting al-Qaida."
A Status of Forces Agreement is still being worked on. The number of troops to remain is yet to be decided but no doubt will be in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, assuming an agreement is possible. Al Qaeda probably never was much of a force in Afghanistan. The battle there has been against the Taliban whose offense was not to attack the US but to harbour Osama bin Laden and terror-training camps. As in Iraq, there will be continuing involvement of the US in Afghanistan and unlike Iraq there is also an agreement that would allow special forces units to operate against suspected terrorists for another ten years.
Obama has changed the face of the US global war against terror. It no longer involves intervention or occupation of countries by the US but covert operations in numerous new theaters of operation. While the drone attacks continue in Pakistan, operations are expanding to Somalia, and Yemen. The preferred option for any ground actions is to have local troops,as in Yemen, or African troops as in Somalia, carry out operations with support from the US, often with small numbers of special forces and/or drone strikes.
While Al Qaeda is claimed to have been decimated and weakened, and no doubt it has in some areas, militant groups spring up anew, and at the same time breathe new life into the war against terrorism. Recently, Mali and Algeria have become the new focus, and global threat. The war is self-perpetuating, as militants with pride adopt the Al Qaeda brand, and western commentators immediately go along by calling the groups Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-linked. Often there is no connection of local groups to any centralized Al Qaeda leadership but a general diffuse global jihadist movement still is able to attract foreign fighters to local battles. Western support for jihadists on occasion results in blow-back which feeds the jihadist movement, as happened when the west supported jihadists against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The same phenomenon may be happening in Libya.
With John Brennan slated to be CIA chief, the drone wars will continue and probably expand. The US will continue with perpetual warfare that will be mostly hidden and less expensive both in terms of funds and in terms of political fallout due to US casualties. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force
(AUMF) signed by George W, Bush in September of 2001 will be used to justify this expanded perpetual war even though there remain no conventional wars.
While there may be some cuts to US military spending, the US in 2011
spent $739.3 billion. There seems to be little correlation between the threat to the US and military expenditures. Somehow, defense spending defenders believe that if the US spends less than 5 times what China and Russia combined spend on defense, the country will be in mortal danger. With almost 1,000 military bases around the world and the US attempting to use its military power to promote its policies and interests throughout the world, there is almost bound to be perpetual conflict. Obama's achievement is to make what is happening for the most part invisible to the US public. I append a celebratory video commentary from MSNBC just to be fair and balanced like FOX news. I even include FOX commentary.