In the 1980s, Washington began funneling aid to mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan as part of a US proxy war against the Soviet Union. It was, in the minds of America's Cold War leaders, a rare chance to bloody the Soviets, to give them a taste of the sort of defeat the Vietnamese, with Soviet help, had inflicted on Washington the decade before. In 1989, after years of bloody combat, the Red Army did indeed limp out of Afghanistan in defeat.
Since late 2001, the United States has been fighting its former Afghan proxies and their progeny. Now, after years of bloody
combat, it's the US that's looking to withdraw the bulk of its forces and once again employ proxies to secure its interests there.
From Asia and Africa to the Middle East and the Americas, the administration of US President Barack Obama is increasingly embracing a multifaceted, light-footprint brand of warfare. Gone, for the moment at least, are the days of full-scale invasions of the Eurasian mainland. Instead, Washington is now planning to rely ever more heavily on drones and special-operations forces to fight scattered global enemies on the cheap. A centerpiece of this new American way of war is the outsourcing of fighting duties to local proxies around the world.
While the United States is currently engaged in just one outright proxy war, backing a multi-nation African force to battle Islamist militants in Somalia, it's laying the groundwork for the extensive use of surrogate forces in the future, training "native" troops to carry out missions - up to and including outright warfare. With this in mind and under the auspices of the Pentagon and the State Department, US military personnel now take part in near-constant joint exercises and training missions around the world aimed at fostering alliances, building coalitions, and whipping surrogate forces into shape to support US national-security objectives.