Where Has the U.S. Military Been Engaged Around the World, and Why?

Since 1991, the United States military has been engaged in over X countries, with a peak of 800,000. But where they have been engaged has been wildly different by region.


Africa

Since 1991, the U.S. has largely avoided major troop deployment on the African content, but with two exceptions. The U.S. deployed 6,345 troops to Somalia in 1993, drawing down to 0 by 1996; and it deployed 498 to Djibouti in 2003, increasing to a peak of 3,172 by 2013. By 2020, there were only 249 deployed across both countries.

With 52 countries on the content of Africa, why were there so many U.S. troops in only about 4 percent of them?

As you can see in this chart, U.S. military involvement during this period is primarily broken out in two phases: before and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. intervened in Somalia from 1992-1995 as part of a humanitarian peacekeeping effort during Somalia's civil war. The intervention culminated with the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.

Djibouti is a more complicated story. The country is by the Bab-elMandeb Staight, which controls approaches to the Suez Canal. As a result, multiple countries have significant bases in Djibouti, including Japan and China.The United States took over the Camp Lemonnier base in September 2002, and it currently pays $63 million a year to lease it from the French.


Asia

The United States has sent a significant number of troops to South Korea since the 1990s, while it has sent nearly none to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (or North Korea). Since the Korean War in the 1950s, there has been a continued disagreement between North and South Korea. In this war, South Korea was supported by the United States. Thus, even after the war, the United States continued to support South Korea.

It is not surprising that the U.S. has sent zero troops to North Korea for the majority of years from 1991 to 2020. However, what is surprising, is that the U.S. sent 24 troops in 2003. The reason for this drastic change in deployment has to do with North Korea pulling out of the Nonproliferation Treaty in January of 2003.

The U.S. military divide between these two nations is an extremely dangerous place and therefore needs the help of the powerful U.S. military. Observing the chart and provided information, the United States deployed a declined amount of troops into Japan, beginning in 2016.

According to NPR, this sharp decrease came following the 2016 election of President Donald Trump. In 2016, Trump shared his frustrations with several U.S. allies, including Japan, over not paying their share for deployment. In 2016, there was also a spike in tensions/crimes committed by U.S. soldiers towards Okinawan civilians, noted in Time magazine, which could be observed as a cause of increased tensions.


Europe

The graphs below show the differing levels of U.S. troops involvement in the Balkan region of Europe throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s — particularly in the Bill Clinton Administration. They represent the peaceful alliance of many European countries and the United States as well as the dedication and success of NATO. After the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, there were several wars in the region that led to increased U.S. involvement in the area to create peace. This is why there are sharp increases and decreases in troop numbers during the time period, because the troops were sent in to stabilize the region, not continue battle efforts. This can be seen in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary, among other countries.

US involvement in Serbia spiked in 1999 when NATO began a bombing campaign against Serbian military targets with the goal to halt urban cleansing taking place against ethnic Albanian Muslims in Kosovo.

This chart spans from 1995 to 1998 demonstrating the US troop's involvement in the Bosnian War, or specifically in the countries Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Hungary. It shows the quick rise and steady decline of troops once the US got involved with these countries fighting over the former Yugoslavia. As this war was slowing and the countries began to broker peace agreements, US troops were sent in to make sure that each region remained stable.


Latin America

Operation Uphold Democracy was a military intervention designed by the United States to remove the military regime installed by the 1991 Haitian coup that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Haiti is the Central American country that has had the most US troops, while troops in Cuba peaked in 1995 as the Clinton Administration stripped Cuban immigrants of their blanket welcome. From 1994-1996, the United States was getting a ton of refugees from both Haiti and Cuba. It is interesting that there were far more troops deployed in Haiti than in Cuba.


The Middle East

In 2015 the US Navy decided to expand its Naval Base in the state of Bahrain, leading to an influx of troops in the country

The troops within the region were originally placed by the United States in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush during the Gulf War to protect Saudi Arabia from Iraq (Operation Desert Shield). In light of 9/11, the Saudi government worked with the United States in fighting al-Qaeda, and in 2003, the United States under President George W. Bush pulled its troops due to a variety of factors. The first, and perhaps most prominant, was that a large percentage (52%) of Saudi citizens were in favor of discontinuing the US military presence within the country. (Gallup Poll) (BBC) Terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden reportedly "resented" the Western occupation, as Saudi Arabia is home to two of the holiest Islamic sites: Mecca and Medina. According to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was a contributing factor in the withdrawl of troops. "'It is now a safer region because of the change of regime in Iraq,'' Mr. Rumsfeld said. ''The aircraft and those involved will now be able to leave.''