The Bureau launches new Shadow Wars project to explore America’s murky military campaigns
In October 2017, four American commandos were killed in a ferocious battle in a country with which the US was not at war, thousands of miles away from the Middle East and South Asian bases of the terrorist organizations America had spent the previous 16 years fighting. The Niger incident was a particularly dramatic example of a trend which is starting to cause concern among US policymakers: the military engagements unleashed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks have become ever deeper, more geographically dispersed and murkier.
The global war on terror has been through different iterations since President George W. Bush ordered the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. As US troops became bogged down in messy insurgencies in those countries, Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, sought to pursue what was presented as a more precise way of targeting enemies, whilst simultaneously seeking to withdraw ground troops. Commandos hunted insurgent leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, while secret CIA drones unleashed missiles on the latter’s allies across the border in Pakistan. Drone strikes also crept up in Yemen and Somalia and the Bureau produced an award-winning body of work documenting this covert war’s unacknowledged human cost.