The year 2015 was marked by violence and war. The most prevalent story in the US media throughout the year was ISIS. The Paris attacks, mass shootings, police brutality, terrorism, the Charleston massacre and the refugee crisis were also among the top 10 stories of the year.
The US, as the world’s leading military power, played an important role in much of this violence and war. The following is a guide to 10 of the major armed conflicts in which the US was involved in 2015.
President Obama promised countless times to end the war in Afghanistan by 2014. But, later he announced that he would not just be delaying US withdrawal; it would, in fact, be expanding the US role in the war. In 2015, the Obama administration said US troops would remain in Afghanistan until 2017. Some politicians, including Sen. John McCain, have repeatedly called for a permanent US military presence in the country.
Throughout 2015, the US led a coalition of countries that are carrying out airstrikes on the ISIS. A French journalist formerly held captive by ISIS has claimed that the US-led bombing campaign is “pushing people into the hands of ISIS,” rather than weakening it. American intelligence agencies also admit that the war against ISIS is not effective, despite the Pentagon spending an average of $9.4 million every day on airstrikes.
To oust Bashar al-Assad from power, the US has armed and trained anti-Assad rebels. However, reports by Seymour Hersh suggest that the US Department of Defense has, in fact, supported the Assad regime through a policy of backing both sides, similar to that it pursued in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. The US did not directly militarily intervene until the rise of ISIS in 2014. Hundreds of civilians have also been killed in the US and Russian bombing against ISIS.
Since March 2015, the US has backed a Saudi-led coalition of Middle Eastern countries in their war on Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. The Western-backed coalition seeks to reinstate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Leading human rights organizations have accused the US-backed coalition of committing war crimes. Rights groups have called on the US to stop providing the coalition with the weapons, including widely banned cluster munitions.
In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, which was internationally recognized to be Ukrainian territory. War subsequently broke out in the Donbass region of Ukraine. Ukrainian nationalists fought pro-Russian separatists throughout 2015.
The US supports the Ukrainian fighters, some of which are neo-fascists, aligned with far-right ultra-nationalist parties like Svoboda and the Right Sector.
An uprising in the occupied Palestinian broke out in October 2015 in which more than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian uprising is being called the “Third Intifada,” or the “al-Aqsa Intifada,” referring to the Jerusalem mosque around which much of the tension has flared. The US has steadfastly backed Israel as it is one of its most important allies, and has given the country more than $100 billion in military aid since 1967. Washington continues to give more than $3 billion in military aid to Israel every year.
The US has waged a drone war in Pakistan for more than a decade. From 2004 to 2015, the US drone war killed up to 4,000 people in Pakistan, one-fourth of whom could have been civilians, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Former drone operators have said that the US drone war in Pakistan is a “recruiting tool” for ISIS.
The drug war in Mexico reached a new height in 2015. The US has long worked with the notoriously corrupt Mexican government to fight drug gangs. In the process, not only have civilians been killed; the Mexican government has itself committed atrocities.
Despite these documented atrocities, the US gives well over $100 million per year in military and police assistance to the Mexican government, and even puts its own officials on the ground to work with it.
The US expanded military aid to Nigeria in 2015 and is working with it in its fight against Boko Haram. Although more attention has been on ISIS, Boko Haram was declared the deadliest terrorist group in 2015. Although Boko Haram has committed ghastly atrocities, the Nigerian military is also known for kidnapping, torturing, and killing civilians. Critics of the government say that, although Boko Haram is a brutal extremist militant group, it has, in fact, killed less people than the Nigerian military.
Hillary Clinton helped push for the NATO bombing of Libya in 2011, which overthrew Gaddafi and destroyed the government, leaving a power vacuum that is yet to be filled. Throughout 2015, various militant groups fought for control over the country. The internationally recognized government in the east is fighting ISIS affiliates in the north, along with Muslim Brotherhood-aligned rebels in the northwest, and tribal militias in the southwest. Although the war officially ended in 2011, the US has backed the Libyan government in the east.