Where in the World are Our U.S. Soldiers?

December 18, 2018

Why is war being kept out of our country? It might be because our U.S. soldiers are out of the country, fighting terrorists abroad and monitoring threats. Since we don’t see war in front of us, our U.S. Armed Forces might be “out of sight; out of mind,” but it’s time we keep them in mind. We’ve all heard about troops being deployed to the border, but do you know where the rest of our troops are deployed right now?    

President Trump recently released a report to inform Congress about deployments of United States Armed Forces. He reported that about 445 U.S. soldiers are still in Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).  The MFO is nothing new—it’s been ongoing since 1982 and exists to ensure that both Egypt and Israel keep their Treaty of Peace.

The U.S. also continues to contribute to the NATO-led Kosovo Force (again, that’s not anything new—it’s been there since 1999).  Around 530 U.S. soldiers remain in Kosovo to keep it stable, multi-ethnic, and democratic.

Troops are also present in Saudi Arabia in a non-combat role. They’re supporting Saudi Arabian forces that are combating the Houthi rebellion in Yemen.

The rest of the deployments listed are for fighting al-Qa’ida, ISIS, and associated forces. For counterterrorism purposes, troops are deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Libya, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Cuba, the Philippians, and Yemen.

That’s a lot of countries! Does President Trump have the authority to deploy troops to fight in those countries against ISIS and al-Qa’ida? He says that part of his authority to do so comes from Public Law 107-40 and Public Law 107-243. Wait a second…what do those laws say? To answer that question, let’s take a minute to rewind all the way back to 2001.

Pressing rewind: in 2001, Congress passed Public Law 107-40, also called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which stated “the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons…”

That meant President Bush could go after Osama Bin Laden and al-Qa’ida. A year later, Congress passed Public Law 107-243, also known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, which said the President could direct the Armed Forces to “defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq…”

By referencing those laws in his report, President Trump is saying the authorizations from Congress to go to war in 2001 and 2002 still apply to him.

But do they still apply? Does President Trump have the authority to stay in war against ISIS?

The 2001 war authorization specifies fighting against those who committed the 2001 terrorist attacks. A group named ISIS did not commit the 2001 terrorist attacks—al-Qa’ida did. But President Trump merges the two groups when he writes, “Since August 2014, these operations have targeted the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)… which was formerly known as al‑Qa’ida in Iraq.” President Trump thinks ISIS and al-Qa’ida are the same group, and it has just changed names. Since the 2001 authorization states the President can fight al-Qa’ida, if al-Qa’ida = ISIS, then that would mean the President could also fight ISIS.

President Obama thought the same way. He conflated ISIS and al-Qa’ida so that he could use the Authorization for Use of Military Force against al-Qa’ida as permission to also fight ISIS.

Some disagree with President Obama and President Trump, though. They argue that al-Qa’ida does not= ISIS. Mainstream media says it wasn’t ISIS who committed the 2001 terrorist attacks because ISIS didn’t even exist until 2014. ISIS and al-Qa’ida are even enemies of each other! The current leader of al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan (Ayman al Zawahiri) has said they have no connection with ISIS, are not pleased with the group, and have ordered it to stop. And the spokesperson for ISIS has said ISIS “is not and has never been an offshoot of al-Qa’ida…”

The ISIS spokesperson is being misleading, though, and mainstream media that claims ISIS didn’t commit the 2001 terrorist attacks is confused. Although ISIS and al-Qa’ida are no longer working together and are now enemies, they used to work together. They’ve been bickering with each other from the start, but they were still a team. ISIS started out as “al-Qa’ida in Iraq.” Then, in 2014, “al-Qa’ida in Iraq” was kicked out of the main al-Qa’ida. (Why? It’s a long story!)

“Al-Qa’ida in Iraq” then went on to become the Islamic State, aka ISIS, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It seems Baghdadi believes he is carrying on the legacy of Osama Bin Laden—that ISIS is the real “Bin Laden’s al’Qa’ida.” If that’s the case, then it makes perfect sense to conflate ISIS and al-Qa’ida into one.

So, the ISIS spokesperson, who said that ISIS is notan offshoot of Al-Qa’ida appears to be wrong, and President Trump, who says that ISIS was formerly known as alQa’ida in Iraq, appears to be right.

But…some people also point out that al-Qa’ida and ISIS have different goals and strategies, so they’re not the same thing. If we consider both group’s overarching goal, though, it is quite similar: both groups are trying to lead the jihadist cause throughout the Muslim world to create a global, Islamic caliphate (aka State or kingdom).

The threat both groups pose to America might be different, though. Al-Qa’ida focuses on targeting America, but ISIS is made up of Sunni Muslims who want to target Muslim “apostates” like the Shi’a Muslims. Foreign policy expert Daniel Byman argues that al-Qa’ida “and its affiliates remain a threat to the U.S. homeland, while the danger [of ISIS] is more to the stability of the Middle East and U.S. interests overseas.” If it’s true that al-Qa’ida and ISIS don’t pose the same type of threat to America, the two groups can’t be blended together as the same thing, so the President might need a new war authorization from Congress to continue battling ISIS.

If President Trump ends up needing a new war authorization, do you think Congress should grant it? Should we keep fighting ISIS overseas? Should we limit the fight to just fighting al-Qa’ida?

Phew! That was a lot of questions and history, but hopefully that gives you some more context for the current deployments overseas. Speaking of deployments…make sure to thank a soldier or veteran every chance you get!

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