Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 Countries

Today, President Obama visits Kenya — the 50th country he has visited during his Administration. It’s also my 50th country traveling with the President.

To mark the occasion, as I did when the President visited his 50th state, I chose one photograph from each country that we’ve visited.

Traveling abroad with the President is very different.

Often times, I am at the mercy of the host country for access. Some countries are more accommodating to me than others. I am lucky to have counterpart official photographers in many countries who are extremely helpful to me in this regard. I of course try to return the help to them when they visit the White House with their head of state.

We’re also rarely in any one country for more than a couple of days, which gives us only a partial glimpse of each place. And because of security, the sites we are able to visit are often limited too.

All that said, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to visit the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, the Great Wall in China, Petra in Jordan, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar (Burma). (So I really shouldn’t complain too much.)

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned — we’ll be adding a photograph from Kenya and additionally, Ethiopia, following his visit next week.

Afghanistan, 2012

Boarding Air Force One at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Review Essay: Radicalism and Terrorism

A new review essay for my home institution RUSI’s own RUSI Journal. It covers a series of books written by three different individuals who managed to penetrate different parts of al Qaeda on behalf of security forces, and lived to tell their tales. The books are written with journalists and are all a good read […] Read more »

On the Other Side of the Camp

June marks Immigrant Heritage Month -- and people across the country are sharing their American stories. Whether you've recently embarked on your first day as an American or want to share how your ancestors came to arrive here, we want to hear from you. Add your voice to the conversation today.

I was born in Somalia, but mostly what I remember are flashes of a carefree child, happily unaware of the world beyond the Utanga Refugee Camp in Kenya. About half a mile from our UNHCR-issued blue tent was the fence that surrounded the camp. Beyond the fence was an endless blue horizon of ocean. And if you stood close enough, on the slight precipice before the fence, you could see where the beach welcomed the waves — its sand, sometimes clear and brightly glistening; other times, dark and dusky, casting sad grayish hues. It felt abandoned and desolate. I never saw any people down there. But sometimes I would catch the sight of boats with colorful sails drifting over the waves.

Most of the other children congregated over at the dumpsites and water wells, fashioning toys out of trash and rocks. I kept to myself, a quiet but curious observer exploring the neighborhoods within the camp. I would often come home well past sundown, only to be rightfully scolded by a concerned parent. But those daily, miles-long excursions only left me hungry for more.

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Out of Reach? The Role of Community Policing in Preventing Terrorism in Canada

Still catching up on old things I failed to post when they landed, this time a report on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) community engagement programme that I undertook with some RUSI colleagues (Charlie and Calum) as part of Canada’s Kanishka funding programme – thanks again to them for the support. The project was initially […] Read more »

On the Tragic Shootings in Ottawa, Canada:

Briefing the President on Shooting in Canada

Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, updates President Barack Obama on the shooting in Canada prior to his phone call with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Oct. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

After speaking with Prime Minister Stephen Harper by phone, President Obama made the following statement on the tragic shootings in Ottawa, Canada:

"I had a chance to talk with Prime Minister Harper this afternoon. Obviously, the situation there is tragic. Just two days ago, a Canadian soldier had been killed in an attack. We now know that another young man was killed today. And I expressed on behalf of the American people our condolences to the family and to the Canadian people as a whole.

We don’t yet have all the information about what motivated the shooting. We don’t yet have all the information about whether this was part of a broader network or plan, or whether this was an individual or series of individuals who decided to take these actions. But it emphasizes the degree to which we have to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with these kinds of acts of senseless violence or terrorism. And I pledged, as always, to make sure that our national security teams are coordinating very closely, given not only is Canada one of our closest allies in the world but they’re our neighbors and our friends, and obviously there’s a lot of interaction between Canadians and the United States, where we have such a long border.

And it’s very important I think for us to recognize that when it comes to dealing with terrorist activity, that Canada and the United States has to be entirely in sync. We have in the past; I’m confident we will continue to do so in the future.  And Prime Minister Harper was very appreciative of the expressions of concern by the American people. 

I had a chance to travel to the Parliament in Ottawa. I’m very familiar with that area and am reminded of how warmly I was received and how wonderful the people there were. And so obviously we’re all shaken by it, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re standing side by side with Canada during this difficult time."

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5 Things to Know: The President Lays Out the U.S. Plan to Degrade and Destroy ISIL

Watch on YouTube

President Obama travelled to Tampa, Florida to speak to service men and women at MacDill Air Force Base about the U.S. strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, a terrorist organization that is killing innocent, unarmed civilians  in both Iraq and Syria. ISIL, also known as ISIS or the Islamic State, is also responsible for the brutal murders of American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

"In a world where technology provides a small group of killers with the ability to do terrible harm, it is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists,” he told servicemembers. To effectively do so, the U.S. will execute a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy that will empower the international community and local leaders to decimate these terrorists. 

"If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."

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President Obama Provides an Update on the Latest in Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri

Watch on YouTube This afternoon at the White House, President Obama delivered a statement on the latest developments in Iraq and in Ferguson, Missouri — two issues he has been following closely each day. First, the President relayed to the natio... Read more »