The Empire Strikes - troops in 177 countries, special forces in 75
These ongoing shadow wars confirm an open secret that few in Congress are willing to discuss publicly--particularly Democrats: When it comes to US counterterrorism policy, there has been almost no substantive change from the Bush to the Obama administration. In fact, my sources within the CIA and the Special Operations community tell me that if there is any change it is that President Obama is hitting harder and in more countries that President Bush. The Obama administration is expanding covert actions of the military and the number of countries where US Special Forces are operating. The administration has taken the Bush era doctrine that the "world is a battlefield" and run with it and widened its scope. Under the Bush administration, US Special Forces were operating in 60 countries. Under President Obama, they are now in 75 nations.
The Obama administration's expansion of Special Forces activities globally stems from a classified order dating back to the Bush administration. Originally signed in early 2004 by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, it is known as the “AQN ExOrd," or Al Qaeda Network Execute Order. The AQN ExOrd was intended to cut through bureaucratic and legal processes, allowing US Special Forces to move into “denied” areas or countries beyond the official battle zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a Special Operations veteran told me, "The ExOrd spells out that we reserve the right to unilaterally act against al Qaeda and its affiliates anywhere in the world that they operate." The current mindset in the White House, he told me, is that "the Pentagon is already empowered to do these things, so let the Joint Special Operations Command off the leash. And that's what this White House has done." He added: "JSOC has been more empowered more under this administration than any other in recent history. No question." "The Obama administration took the [Bush-era] order and went above and beyond," he said. "The world is the battlefield, we've returned to that."