Obama’s ‘Boots on the Ground’: U.S. Special Forces Are Sent to Tackle Global Threats by Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, New York Times
They are taking on a larger combat role in Afghanistan, where the war was supposed to be over. They are headed to Syria to help fight the Islamic State in its stronghold. And President Obama recently ordered nearly 300 of them to Cameroon to assist African troops in their battle against a militant group that has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State.
With the Middle East in tumult, radical groups holding swaths of territory in Africa, and a presidential campaign fanning fears of a growing terrorism threat, the White House has steadily expanded the global missions of American Special Operations troops.
Even as Mr. Obama has repeatedly said that he opposes American “boots on the ground” in far-flung parts of the world, his administration continues to carve out exceptions for Special Operations forces — with American officials often resorting to linguistic contortions to mask the forces’ combat role.
The Obama administration long ago showed its inclination to rely on Special Operations troops and clandestine missions as an alternative to large wars of occupation. But the spread of the Islamic State over the past year — from its hubs in Syria and Iraq to affiliates in Africa and South Asia — has led the White House to turn to elite troops to try to snuff out crises in numerous locations.
These deployments, as well as other missions being considered, have upended the Obama administration’s goal of withdrawing from countries that for more than a decade have been crucibles of combat for the American military…