chairman Obama discusses his administration’s counterterrorism plan in might 2013. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Before he took office in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to finish America’s grueling problems in Iraq and also Afghanistan. Throughout his second term, the pledged to take the nation off what he dubbed a permanent war footing.

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“Our systematic initiative to dismantle terrorist institutions must continue,” he claimed in may 2013. “But this war, like all wars, have to end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.”

But Obama leaves a an extremely different tradition as he prepares come hand his commander-in-chief obligations to Donald Trump.

U.S. Military forces have been at war for all eight year of Obama’s tenure, the first two-term president v that distinction. He released airstrikes or armed forces raids in at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and also Pakistan.

Yet the U.S. Faces much more threats in an ext places 보다 at any time because the Cold War, according to U.S. Intelligence. Because that the an initial time in decades, over there is at least the potential that an equipped clash with America’s biggest adversaries, Russia and also China.

Obama slashed the variety of U.S. Troops in war zones native 150,000 to 14,000, and also stopped the circulation of American soldiers coming house in human body bags. He also used diplomacy, no war, to defuse a tense nuclear standoff through Iran.

But the vastly increased the role of upstream commando units and the usage of brand-new technology, including armed drones and also cyber weapons.

“The whole ide of battle has readjusted under Obama,” said Jon Alterman, Middle east specialist in ~ the facility for Strategic and also International Studies, a nonprofit think tank in Washington.

Obama “got the nation out of ‘war,’ at the very least as we offered to view it,” Alterman said. “We’re currently wrapped up in every these various conflicts, at a short level and with no finish in sight.”

“ The whole ide of war has changed under Obama. ” — Jon Alterman, Middle eastern specialist at the facility for Strategic and International studies re-superstructure this quote
A reaping machine drone prepares because that a mission in Afghanistan. Obama expanded the use of new technology, including armed drones and cyber weapons. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

The administration built mystery drone bases and other infrastructure in Africa and the center East, and added troops and also warships in the western Pacific. It also moved troops and also equipment to eastern Europe to respond to a resurgent Russia.

Along the way, Obama occasionally quarreled v his top military advisors. After they left the Pentagon, Obama’s very first three secretaries of Defense — Robert M. Gates, Leon E. Panetta and Chuck Hagel — accused the Obama White home of micromanaging the military.

Obama’s political rise famously started with a speech he gave in Chicago in October 2002, once he announced he was “opposed to dumb wars,” referring to the planned intrusion of Iraq by the George W. Bush administration.

But together president, Obama found himself recorded in the fierce overcome currents that the so-called Arab feather uprisings the roiled lot of the center East and also North Africa in 2011, resulting in harsh crackdowns throughout the region. Just one country, Tunisia, eventually saw a transition to democracy.

He reluctantly authorized a NATO air campaign in Libya originally aimed at avoiding massacres of civilians by strongman Moammar Kadafi.

Determined to stop the kind of nation building that pulled the U.S. Into Iraq’s polite war, he i was withdrawn after Kadafi was eliminated — just to check out the oil-rich country collapse in conflict and become a magnet for terrorist groups.

The risk was clean after members that the Islamic militant group Ansar al Sharia stormed a U.S. Diplomatic compound and nearby CIA base in Benghazi, in east Libya, in September 2012, death U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three various other Americans.

The messy results in Libya do Obama realize the limitations of army power in afford U.S. Goals, and that shame the rest of his presidency, said Benjamin Rhodes, his deputy national security advisor.

“We can ruin things,” Rhodes said. “He does not think we deserve to shape the trajectory of the interior politics of another country or the building of a brand-new society.”

Obama was guided by fist after the Libya endure — with combined results.

He kept U.S. Ground forces out of Syria’s bloody polite war but could not stop a conflict now in its sixth tragic year — and also saw America’s influence weaken as Russia and Iran filled the gap.

In January 2014, Obama mocked the emergence of Islamic State in Syria as a boy threat contrasted with Al Qaeda. “If a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, the doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the told the new Yorker.

But the summer, through the black-garbed Sunni militants threaten Baghdad, Obama was forced to sirloin U.S. Troops ago to Iraq and also order a flurry that airstrikes come block further advances by the group.

He leaves office through 5,262 U.S. Troops in Iraq and also 503 in Syria and also a relentless air battle that has helped press the militants out of crucial cities and towns, and also crippled their capability to produce or sell oil.

U.S. Soldiers save watch in the southerly desert the Iraq prior to a September 2010 convoy drawdown. Obama pipeline office through 5,262 military personnel in the country. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Yet Islamic State still controls large parts the both countries. That remains bigger and an ext powerful than Al Qaeda ever was, luring one an approximated 35,000 international fighters and also followers come its self-declared caliphate and sponsoring or motivating deadly attacks about the globe.

In a speech on Dec. 6 at MacDill Air force Base in Florida, Obama all yet conceded that he was unable to get America out of the international wars, huge and small, that flourished out the the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“We know that in some form this violent extremism will certainly be v us for years to come,” Obama said. “In too plenty of parts the the world, particularly in the center East, there has been a failure of stimulate that's been building for decades, and it’s unleashed forces that room going to take it a generation to resolve.”

“ We know that in some type this violent extremism will certainly be v us for years come come. ” — president Barack Obama re-superstructure this quote
Obama speak at MacDill Air pressure Base in Florida on Dec. 6, 2016.

Obama considers his diplomatic achievements — an especially the nuclear attend to Iran, the Paris covenant to struggle climate adjust and a restoration of diplomatic connections with Cuba — to it is in his primary foreign policy legacy.

Diplomacy has “helped keep us safe and helped keep our troops safe,” he said at MacDill.

Yet those accomplishments may no last. Trump has threatened to dismantle or renegotiate lock all.

Obama’s aides space frustrated the the chairman doesn’t gain credit for keeping U.S. Troops the end of another significant ground war.

“It’s difficult for civilization to remember, yet when we came right into office us were shedding 100 world a month, security $10 billion a month — one unsustainable allocation of resources and an remarkable burden on our military,” Rhodes said.

Spending and also casualties both have fallen sharply. The Pentagon has actually spent a complete of $10 exchange rate in the 30 months since it checked out war versus Islamic State in mid-2014, and the militants have actually killed only five American service members in Iraq and Syria since that time.


Coalition pressures assemble in ~ the Qayyarah Airfield West in Iraq in November to retake Mosul native Islamic State. In ~ right, a soldier keeps watch end the airfield. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times) Coalition pressures assemble at the Qayyarah Airfield West in Iraq in November to take back Mosul from Islamic State. Below, a soldier keeps watch end the airfield.. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Rhodes suggested that Obama likewise made vital decisions that maintained the nation from being pulled into other conflicts.

“There are any variety of decisions we can have made that would have actually led to war,” that said. “It’s difficult for people to periodically visualize the counterfactual, yet there are decisions that a president provides every week around whether come escalate.”

“It’s a selection not come escalate,” the added.

Obama’s tradition as a peacemaker seemed assured in his an initial year in office, once he to be awarded the Nobel peace Prize, mostly for the assures he had actually made to minimize the danger of atom war.

But the award come at an awkward time. Obama’s inside circle knew the planned come send 30,000 much more U.S. Troops to Afghanistan to try to stabilize the country before withdrawing U.S. Ground pressures altogether.

Obama’s acceptance speech in Oslo reflect his ambivalence around lauding the ideals of tranquility while sending Americans come kill and be killed in far-off lands.

“Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda’s leader to lay down their arms,” that said. “To to speak that force may sometimes be necessary is no a speak to to cynicism. It is a recognition of history, the imperfections that man and also the limits of reason.”

Gates stated Obama likewise was ambivalent around sending more troops to Afghanistan in 2009. Obama was skeptical “if not outright encouraged it would fail,” gateways wrote in his 2014 book, “Duty: Memoirs that a Secretary in ~ War.”

Obama had his own priority, entrances wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

He never ever quite succeeded. Obama pipeline office v 8,400 troops tho in Afghanistan. Your mission is to assistance a weak central government that is still battling the Taliban — 15 years after a U.S. Invasion compelled the militants native power.

“ come say that pressure may occasionally be essential is no a speak to to cynicism. It is a acknowledgment of history, the imperfections that man and also the boundaries of reason. ” — president Barack Obama in his Nobel accept speech share this quote

In his very first term, the Obama team tried to revolve attention far from the Middle east with a strategic pivot toward the Asia Pacific region, rich with cultivation economies and potential friend nervous about Chinese expansion.

“If us put all of our power into the middle East, or just right into reacting, us won't acquire things done,” claimed Susan Rice, among Obama’s closest torture and, in his second term, his national security advisor.

But the focus on Asia faded as other threats emerged — consisting of Al Shabaab in Somalia, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, Ansar al Sharia in Libya, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali, the Taliban in Pakistan and, ultimately, Islamic State around the world.

Obama sent Navy SEALs and Army Delta force commandos to raid militant hide-outs in Libya, Somalia and elsewhere. That personally authorized the CIA-led SEAL raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in might 2011.

But he mostly relied ~ above Predators and also other increasingly sophisticated drone plane — an initial to conduct aerial surveillance and then to launch fatal Hellfire missiles.

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone paris over Kandahar Airfield in southerly Afghanistan. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP)

Drones retained U.S. Soldiers out of harm’s means and they were, arguably, more humane than various other weapons since they could help find and kill particular individuals and limit civilian casualties.

At the very least in public, Obama wrestled v his farming reliance ~ above drones and also his use of them to bring out targeted killings.

He even ordered the death of a U.S. Citizen — Anwar Awlaki, a charismatic cleric born in new Mexico who functioned for Al Qaeda in Yemen. Obama authorized the drone strike the targeted and also killed that in September 2011.

U.S. Drones likewise killed at the very least six other Americans in attacks aimed in ~ militants. That says the tools were no as precise, or the knowledge as reliable, as the administration has claimed.

In a speech at national Defense university in might 2013, Obama promised to provide an ext transparency around targeted killings.

It took three years, but in July the White house said up to 164 civilians had been killed in 473 airstrikes during Obama’s tenure, and also that most involved drones. The tally go not include the battles in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan.

Independent groups put the death toll lot higher, saying thousands of civilians to be killed external the battle zones, and many hundreds much more in them.

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The war in Syria verified the greatest an obstacle for Obama, and also much of his legacy may well rely on how background views his response.

In august 2012, Obama publicly warned the President Bashar Assad would cross a “red line” if his forces used chemistry weapons versus rebels search his ouster.

A year later, when poison gas assaults killed hundreds in rebel-held locations of Damascus, Obama faced a decision: Make an excellent on his include threat and launch cruise missiles and bombers against Syria’s government and military? Or earlier down to keep America the end of a polite war?

Obama initially appeared on the verge of ordering a massive attack. The Pentagon relocated warships into place, readied missiles and also bombers, dusted off targeting plans and also waited because that the go signal.

Then he hit the brakes.

On Aug. 30, Obama take it a walk on the south Lawn the the White house with his chef of staff, Denis McDonough. Later on they called an elderly aides together and also Obama called them the wouldn’t bow to press from doubters in Congress and also elsewhere to gain America into one more Mideast war.

“These guys, due to the fact that of the politics of the moment, are pushing me come take action that is walking to have real aftermath for Americans,’” Obama said, one an elderly staffer recalled. “He said, ‘I’m not going to perform that.’”

The news stunned the group. Secretary of State man F. Kerry had been so i was sure Obama was around to beginning the missiles that he’d given a speech that day at the State Department, implying an strike on Assad to be on the way.

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The next day, Obama appeared in the increased Garden to say he was all set to stimulate airstrikes but the American civilization deserved a vote. That asked congress to happen a joint resolution authorizing use of pressure in Syria.