In Barack Obama’s keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention — the speech that catapulted him onto the national stage — the bright-eyed, loose-limbed senator from Illinois spoke of America’s responsibility to its soldiers.
“We have a solemn obligation,” Obama said, “not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war and secure the peace.”
In that spirit, here are some of those numbers.
—Of those, 1,906 have been killed in and around Afghanistan, and 593 in Iraq.
—Under Obama, the United States has been at war for 2,687 days. That’s longer than under George W. Bush — or any other U.S. president, for that matter.
—Obama has conducted airstrikes on seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. (That’s three more countries than George W. Bush bombed.)
—U.S. combat forces are deployed on the ground in three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. That’s one more war than Obama inherited, and which his successor will likely have to contend with.
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Obama the candidate is often remembered for pledging to end America’s wars in the Middle East. But he didn’t oppose war outright; he said he was opposed to “dumb” wars. (In his estimation, the war in Iraq was a dumb one, and the war in Afghanistan a necessary one.) A “smart war,” to Obama, means fewer U.S. soldiers on the ground. To his credit, he has drawn down the number of soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, from 200,000 under Bush to fewer than 14,000. Doing that, though, has meant an increased reliance on technology like drones.
Which brings us to the numbers we still don’t have: a count of combatants and civilians killed by drone strikes ordered by the president. But the White House has announced plans for later this year to make public the total number of casualties from U.S. drone strikes since 2009.