Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

“Syria’s Stalingrad;” The Hunt for a Submarine (?) in October

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 24, 2014
Smoke and flames rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 20, 2014. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Courtesy Reuters) Smoke and flames rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 20, 2014. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

Kobani: “Syria’s Stalingrad?” Although, according to Pentagon officials, the Turkish-Syrian border city of Kobani does not play a significant part in broader anti-ISIS operations in the region, it appears to be assuming a significant strategic value due to the fierce media battle now being waged by both ISIS and Kurdish forces. Although ISIS forces have reportedly lost momentum in the past few days, the Pentagon concedes the town could still fall.  More broadly, the United States announced that it killed 521 ISIS militants and 32 civilians in its first month of Syrian bombing. And more broadly still, the outlook for Syria has darkened considerably in the past few months. A RAND Institute “Alternative Futures” study now suspects that operational momentum has shifted back to the Assad government—with grave consequences for the region.

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Why Is a Comedian the Only One Talking About the Plight of Afghan Interpreters?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson and Janine Davidson Thursday, October 23, 2014
A translator for the U.S. Army listens during a security meeting with various members of the Afghan National Security Forces near Combat Outpost Hutal in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 21, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters) A translator for the U.S. Army listens during a security meeting with various members of the Afghan National Security Forces near Combat Outpost Hutal in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 21, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters)

By Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson

If you tuned in for last Sunday’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you also watched some of the most thorough reporting to date regarding efforts to secure Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) for Afghan and Iraqi  translators who have served for years alongside U.S. military personnel. When American servicemen rotate away, these translators remain—often becoming top-priority targets for reprisal attacks. Unfortunately, the State Department program intended to get Afghan translators and their families to safety has long been stuck in a bureaucratic swamp, stranding more than 6,000 Afghans across various stages of the process. With the visa program slated to end on December 31, many of these Afghans are now in very real danger of being abandoned. This raises two difficult questions: first, why has this been allowed to happen? And second, what now—at this late stage—can still be done to save them?

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Counter-Unconventional Warfare Is the Way of the Future. How Can We Get There?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, October 23, 2014
Pro-Russian rebels ride on an armored personnel carrier (APC) during a parade in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, September 14, 2014. (Marko Djurica/Courtesy Reuters) Pro-Russian rebels ride on an armored personnel carrier (APC) during a parade in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, September 14, 2014. (Marko Djurica/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert A. Newson

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain Robert A. Newson, CFR’s U.S. Navy fellow and a SEAL officer. He argues that the newly outlined “Counter-Unconventional Warfare” strategy will be the best way to counter the emerging threat of hybrid warfare witnessed most recently in Ukraine. Captain Newson acknowledges that this new mode of warfare will be difficult to adopt—yet failing to do so will carry much worse consequences.

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“Win in a Complex World (II):” Why an Integrated Conventional and Special Operations Force Will Work Best

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, October 22, 2014
U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire at an enemy bunker during Task Force Training on Camp Roberts, Calif., Feb. 1, 2014. (Spc. Steven Hitchcock/U.S. Army Flickr) U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire at an enemy bunker during Task Force Training on Camp Roberts, Calif., Feb. 1, 2014. (Spc. Steven Hitchcock/U.S. Army Flickr)

By Mike Rauhut

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Michael Rauhut, CFR’s U.S. Army fellow. He observes that the newly released Army Operating Concept shows an unprecedented level of acceptance and integration of special operations capabilities into conventional Army forces. Colonel Rauhut argues that the result of this integration is overwhelmingly positive, affording policymakers a wider range of options in pursuit of their strategic objectives. This follows a piece by Janine Davidson on the Army Operating Concept and institutional learning.

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Weekend Reader: The Quiet Abandonment of Afghan Development; ISIS Tightens Noose Around Baghdad

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 17, 2014
An Afghan girl walks outside of her shelter in the outskirts of Kabul February 3, 2013. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters) An Afghan girl walks outside of her shelter in the outskirts of Kabul February 3, 2013. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters)

Post-conflict development efforts in Afghanistan are quietly unraveling. The Afghan girls’ school in Kandahar is only the latest casualty of dwindling development dollars. In January, the U.S. Congress voted to halve development funds to Afghanistan. As the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction warned in July, the United States has “no realistic plan” to ensure electrical supply in Kandahar beyond 2015. This news is deeply troubling and is largely escaping public attention. As I’ve written previously, it is crucial that Afghan reconstruction assistance continues beyond the withdrawal of U.S. troops to prevent the unraveling of Afghan security and development.

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“Winning In A Complex World:” The Army Gets It. Now Can the Lesson Stick?

by Janine Davidson Thursday, October 16, 2014
Outgoing Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq General Raymond Odierno speaks during a change of command ceremony in Baghdad September 1, 2010. (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters) Outgoing Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq General Raymond Odierno speaks during a change of command ceremony in Baghdad September 1, 2010. (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters)

This week, thousands of soldiers and industry representatives descended on Washington, DC for the Association of the U.S. Army’s (AUSA) annual conference.  Amid the standard panel discussions about military acquisitions, organization, and veterans benefits, there also ran a new undercurrent of uncertainty—and excitement—regarding the future role of the Army. Increasingly, Army soldiers at every level are looking beyond the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and asking what sorts of missions might come next and how they should prepare.

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The Air Campaign Against ISIS (II): Military Partnerships Will Be the Deciding Factor

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, October 14, 2014
F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters) F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters)

By Clint Hinote

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. He discusses the role of military partnerships in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, drawing on his own experience as an Air Force weapons and tactics instructor. According to Col. Hinote, international participation—particularly by Arab partner nations—will prove a critical component of the strategy to dismantle ISIS. This piece follows Col Hinote’s previous discussion of the utility of air strikes.

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Weekend Reader: The ISIS Assault on Kobani, Breaking the Internet, and the Problem with America’s Limited Wars

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 10, 2014
Smoke rises in the Syrian town of Kobani as Turkish Kurds watch near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc October 9, 2014. Islamic State fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group said on Thursday, as U.S.-led air strikes failed to halt their advance and Turkish forces nearby looked on without intervening. (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters) Smoke rises in the Syrian town of Kobani as Turkish Kurds watch near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc October 9, 2014. Islamic State fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group said on Thursday, as U.S.-led air strikes failed to halt their advance and Turkish forces nearby looked on without intervening. (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters)

Kobani: a propaganda victory for ISIS—and likely a massacre waiting to happenCFR’s Steven Cook explains that, although Turkey (a NATO member) could intervene in defense of the Turkish-Syrian border town, it likely will not. As well, Turkey has so far refused U.S. requests to base aircraft from Incirlik Air Base, close to the Syrian border.

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Yes, the U.S. Military Can and Should Help Stop Ebola

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, October 8, 2014
American airmen stand outside a U.S. military aircraft after landing at Roberts International Airport outside Monrovia, September 18, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) American airmen stand outside a U.S. military aircraft after landing at Roberts International Airport outside Monrovia, September 18, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Reaction was mixed following President Obama’s announcement that he was sending 3,000 troops to Liberia to help contain the spiraling Ebola epidemic. Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Prize-winning, normally pacifist NGO has been on the front lines of this fight begging for military support. Meanwhile, a couple retired generals have blasted the president for the decision, asserting that it is a “misuse” of the military, whose job is to “fight wars, not medical battles.”

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Weekend Reader: Untangling the Human Cost of ISIS Occupation; The A-10 Warthog Rides Again

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 3, 2014
Syrian Kurdish refugee children wait inside a temporary medical facility after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 1, 2014. (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters) Syrian Kurdish refugee children wait inside a temporary medical facility after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 1, 2014. (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters)

With ISIS’ advance into Iraq, a policy of ethnic cleansing and mass slavery of women and children. As Column Lynch reports in Foreign Policy, the U.N. documented the abduction of 2,500 civilians from occupied Iraq by the end of August. Women’s marriages have been forcibly annulled as they are re-”married” to ISIS fighters. Likewise, young girls and boys have been systematically sexually assaulted. As the U.N. report concludes, “The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by [ISIS] and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.” As the report outlines: Read more »