The Obama Administration is pursuing a new war policy. New tactics use special forces, drones, and other methods that are less costly than conventional warfare and bring fewer casualties. Where possible proxy fighters rather than U.S. forces are used.
Nick Turse is an award winning journalist who is an associate editor at TomDispatch.com. Turse has written for the Los Angeles Times and also The Nation as well as TomDispatch. He has written several books as well. He is writing a series of works on the changing face of the American Empire. His latest article in the series focuses on the U.S. use of proxy wars but this is just part of a what Turse has called the New Obama Doctrine which is a new American way of war.
The new U.S. way of waging war consists of six aspects: Special Ops, Drones, Spy Games, Civilian Soldiers, Proxy Fighters, and Cyber Warfare. See this link for a full discussion of each aspect.
Drone warfare and surveillance has been much expanded under Obama. Armed drone attacks occur not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan but now in Yemen and Somalia. In spite of criticism of the UN, Pakistan, and many activists Obama continues to use the drones in attacks even in Pakistan where the government claims that they are a violation of sovereignty. The Pakistani parliament has passed several motions asking that they stop.
The use of Special Ops is also being expanded. Often actions are carried out in secret although sometimes as in the attack upon Bin Laden in Pakistan actions are concealed only until the event. Afterwards they are celebrated for their propaganda value. However much Special Operations work is more mundane such as training the armed forces of Mali. The recent coup in Mali was carried out by a U.S. trained captain. Although all U.S. troops were supposed to have withdrawn after the coup in protest, a traffic accident revealed that at least some are still there!
The most recent Turse article deals mainly with U.S use of proxies. The use of proxies is nothing new. The U.S. actually used proxies in Afghanistan when a Soviet supported regime ruled. The CIA funded Islamic jihadists who fought against the Soviets and the Afghan government. The results were quite positive from the U.S. point of view. The Red Army in 1989 retreated in defeat. However ever since the U.S. and the west have faced their former proxies in the war on terror. Again in Afghanistan groups with the same jihadist views are trying to drive the U.S. and its allies from Afghanistan. Using proxies can cause blowback.
The U.S. is now engaged in many parts of the world training military forces in many nations. Afghanistan is simply one of the most visible cases. By 2014 the intention is to turn over security to Afghans. The hope is that they will carry on with U.S. policy aims of keeping the Taliban at bay. To make sure, there is an agreement to keep U.S. troops and trainers in Afghanistan until at least 2024.
In Somalia the U.S. backs a multi-nation force to battle Islamic militants. The drone campaign is in full swing there as well although little reported on except perhaps by Iranian news outlets! Throughout the world the U.S. helps train and carry out joint exercises with many countries including South Korea, the Philippines, and Mali all with the aim of advancing U.S. security objectives without committing U.S. forces to a significant degree. However in a move to contain Chinese power the U.S. is stationing more troops in Australia and other areas and also increasing its naval presence in the western Pacific.
Using jihadists as proxies did not work out as it resulted ultimately in the proxies attacking the U.S. and the west. The attempt to create Iraqi armed forces that would carry on U.S. policy aims has not worked either. Iraq is more favorable to Iran than the U.S. and the Shia majority rules. Even the use of Sunni tribes as proxies to fight Al Qaeda has had blowback. Many of the Sunnis no longer paid by the U.S. have not integrated into the new government and some may even have returned to support Al Qaeda. Proxies and puppets are unreliable. In time they may come to see their own interests and those who fund and try to control them as diametrically opposed. Proxies are also a continuing drain on the U.S. taxpayer.