Amid Syria's five-year-old civil war and Iraq's push to expel the Islamic State group from its major cities, President Barack Obama has quietly reneged on promises of "no boots on the ground" in recent years. A campaign involving private contractors, drone strikes and up to 300 U.S. Special Operations troops against the al Qaeda offshoot group al-Shabab has been escalating there over the past year, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing "senior American military officials." Somalia, along with Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, isn't alone when it comes to American military involvement. On Thursday, Oct. 13, the U.S. engaged in direct military action with Somalia's neighbor, Yemen, entering into a civil war there between the Yemeni government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
The data shows just how much American forces have come to rely on the unmanned vehicles to carry out missions in the Middle East and abroad, even while human rights organizations and some foreign governments have raised concerns over what they call an unnecessary amount of civilian casualties. Drone account for a huge amount of air strikes, proportionally, compared to just five years ago, according to the data reviewed by Reuters, making up 56 percent of air attacks in 2015 compared to 5 percent in 2011. The use of drones to carry out American military interests has been a very divisive issue. While those in favor say the drones reduce risk for U.S. troops and requires less manpower in the region, critics say the tools -- which could theoretically be controlled from anywhere in the world -- cause unnecessary civilian casualties.