us department of defense

Dr. Carol Atkinson, professor of international relations at USC and a veteran of the United States Air Force, gave an hour-long briefing to USC students at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism about U.S. military tactics on Wednesday afternoon. Atkinson, who served in Operation Desert Storm, spoke on the shift of the U.S. military’s approach from hard tactics to soft, due to what she described as a changing tide of foreign policy and a new era in public diplomacy.

In this crisis-heavy summer, once high-priority missions are quickly falling off the public's - and sometimes the national security establishment's - radar. Even the biggest of U.S. military missions - Afghanistan, where roughly 29,000 U.S. troops are deployed -- seems to be on Washington's back burner compared with Ukraine and the threat of the Islamic State. But the commanders running these operations, as well as the personnel carrying them out, certainly haven't forgotten. The Pentagon's top five "forgotten missions" follow.

Just as in Pakistan after devastating floods and earthquakes, Thailand after the tsunami and the worst flood in a century, and Haiti after an earthquake leveled its major city, America's military is once again doing a masterful job of staging relief supplies into an area devastated by a catastrophic natural disaster. In the Philippine islands where barely a tree is left standing and as many as 10,000 are feared dead, U.S. soldiers are on the ground.

They're involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that's just the ABCs of the situation. Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the US military is at work.

The Syrian conflict is reaching critical mass. Reports of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government is forcing regional and global leaders, including the United States, to act. The UK parliament just gave an emphatic no to Prime Minister David Cameron's proposal for military intervention. Lines of varying color have been drawn and naval ships are on standby. Oh, and Russia is being Russia. So what are President Obama's options?

Three Chinese ships are sailing east to join rare naval drills with the United States as Beijing ramps up its military diplomacy amid regional territorial disputes and other tensions. The ships left the port of Qingdao on Tuesday to participate in search-and-rescue drills with the U.S. Navy in the waters off Hawaii. Afterward, the ships will continue on to Australia and New Zealand for similar exercises.

Once, Adil Ibrahim worked as a translator with American soldiers, introducing them to Iraqi culture and the streets of Baghdad and trying to bridge gaps of understanding. Now, he’s one of them. Ibrahim, an Iraqi who came to the United States on a media scholarship in 2008 and then sought asylum, is now a U.S. citizen and member of the U.S. military. He’s even been deployed to Afghanistan.

President Obama, deploring the military-led Egyptian government’s deadly crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters there, said on Thursday that the United States would pull out of scheduled joint military exercises with the Egyptian Army. “While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual while civilians are being killed in the streets,” Mr. Obama said in remarks delivered from his rented vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard.