Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Taliban Spring Offensive Besieges Kunduz; Islamic State Eyes Baltimore Protestors

by Janine Davidson
Afghan security forces arrive at the Kunduz airport, April 30, 2015. The Afghan army and police on Thursday failed to expel Taliban fighters from the outskirts of a besieged provincial capital as a seventh day of fierce fighting put pressure on national forces struggling largely without U.S. military backup. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters) Afghan security forces arrive at the Kunduz airport, April 30, 2015. The Afghan army and police on Thursday failed to expel Taliban fighters from the outskirts of a besieged provincial capital as a seventh day of fierce fighting put pressure on national forces struggling largely without U.S. military backup. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters)

Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province risks falling into Taliban hands as the spring offensive beginsA spike in insurgents flowing from Pakistan, as well as a rise in Chechen and Uzbek foreign fighters, is making the counteroffensive effort by Afghan Security Forces increasingly difficult. Afghan military officials have said that they do not have the resources to endure an extended counterinsurgency in the region. As Afghan Security Forces struggle, the U.S. military is increasing its proportion of air strikes and counterterrorism operations in the region.

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Tensions Near Gulf of Aden; Yemeni Americans Abandoned; Quiet Troop Buildup in Ukraine

by Janine Davidson
Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 1 fly in formation over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during an airpower demonstration, March 22, 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Brown/U.S. Navy/Flickr) Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 1 fly in formation over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during an airpower demonstration, March 22, 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Brown/U.S. Navy/Flickr)

The United States bolsters its fleet off the Yemeni coast to twelve ships, including aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt—and turns back an Iranian flotilla. Iran had intended to deliver aid—and quite possibly arms—to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. This rise in maritime tensions is only the latest in a long history of at-sea altercations between the United States and Iran.

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The Islamic State Sets Eyes on Ramadi; A Little Closure in the Bitter Saga of Blackwater

by Janine Davidson
Iraqi security forces make their way during a patrol looking for Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Ramadi April 9, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Iraqi security forces make their way during a patrol looking for Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Ramadi April 9, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

 In its widest offensive since the loss of Tikrit, the Islamic State forces besiege Ramadi. The self-declared Islamic State currently holds positions on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi, forcing the evacuation of more than 2,000 citizens. However, the U.S.-led coalition launched airstrikes had blunted the terror group’s momentum on Thursday, leading one U.S. military official to comment that the fall of Ramadi is “not imminent.”

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How Serious Is the Rebalance? U.S. Military Record Tells (Part of) the Story

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) participates in a simulated straits transit.  (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher B. Janik/U.S. Navy/Flickr) The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) participates in a simulated straits transit. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher B. Janik/U.S. Navy/Flickr)

By Janine Davidson and Lauren Dickey

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s travels to Japan and South Korea last week—designed no doubt to highlight the continued U.S. commitment to the region—instead resurfaced concerns that the rebalance to Asia is no longer a priority for Washington. Skeptics worry that world events from Russian aggression in Ukraine, to the continued conflagrations across the Middle East, and negotiations with Iran will continue to challenge Washington’s ability to deploy what Carter referred to as the “next phase of our rebalance.” Debates over the defense budget back in Washington further stoke worries that the military side of the rebalance will remain more talk that action. While there may be other valid concerns about the rebalance (Is it focused sufficiently on Southeast Asia? Overly provocative toward China? Likely to be derailed entirely without the TPP?), concerns that the United States has not prioritized the rebalance do not stand up to the facts. A survey of actual U.S. military activity in the region helps differentiate facts from opinion.

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Massacre in Yarmouk; The Islamic State and the Hand of Saddam Hussein; 116 Days

by Janine Davidson
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yells in court as he receives his verdict, as a bailiff attempts to silence him, during his trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone November 5, 2006. . (David Furst/Courtesy Reuters) Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yells in court as he receives his verdict, as a bailiff attempts to silence him, during his trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone November 5, 2006. . (David Furst/Courtesy Reuters)

16,000 Palestinian refugees stranded between the forces of Bashar al-Assad and the advancing Islamic State. The United Nations-administered Yarmouk refugee camp, once home to 200,000, now holds less than 20,000, too young or weak to flee. Speaking at the UN Headquarters, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it plainly: “We simply cannot stand by and watch a massacre unfold.

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Overstretched and Under Pressure, the U.S. Air Force Remains the Backbone of Current Operations

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Twelve Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during Exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015. During the aerial exercise, the Stratotankers delivered 800,000 pounds of fuel to about 50 aircraft. (Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force Flickr) Twelve Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during Exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015. During the aerial exercise, the Stratotankers delivered 800,000 pounds of fuel to about 50 aircraft. (Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force Flickr)

By Janine Davidson and Sam Ehrlich

U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James visited the Council on Foreign Relations late last month to discuss the present and future of the Air Force. James, who was confirmed as the twenty-third Secretary of the Air Force in December 2013, spoke on a number of capabilities and institutional challenges within the Air Force, everything from the nuclear enterprise reform to proposed platform retirement. Her bottom line—repeated often—was that available resources are falling far short of the Air Force’s growing responsibilities. Read more »

A Deal at Last; Dangerous Escalation in Yemen; Tikrit Recaptured After Four Bloody Weeks

by Janine Davidson
Arab students shout slogans, carry banners and a Yemeni national flag during a protest against Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, in front of the offices of the U.N. headquarters in Beirut April 1, 2015. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against the Shi'ite Houthis, who emerged as the most powerful force in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country when they seized Yemen's capital last year. (Mohamed Azakir/Courtesy Reuters) Arab students shout slogans, carry banners and a Yemeni national flag during a protest against Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, in front of the offices of the U.N. headquarters in Beirut April 1, 2015. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against the Shi'ite Houthis, who emerged as the most powerful force in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country when they seized Yemen's capital last year. (Mohamed Azakir/Courtesy Reuters)

Iranian nuclear negotiations wrapped up in Lausanne, Switzerland with the announcement of a broad nuclear accord. The deal will reduce Iranian installed centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,000; not enrich uranium above 3.67 percent (90 percent or more is needed for nuclear weapons); and a cap on enriched uranium set to 300 kilograms, down from 10,000 kilograms currently. In return, global sanctions will be lifted and Iran will be admitted into the global community. This is the best of all available options—something I argued on Fox News this Tuesday.

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The Declassified Intelligence Report Used to Justify the Iraq War; A Timeline of the Ukraine Crisis

by Janine Davidson
U.S. President George W. Bush passes crew members as he walks the deck of
the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to deliver his speech to the nation
as the carrier steamed toward San Diego, California, May 1, 2003. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President George W. Bush passes crew members as he walks the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to deliver his speech to the nation as the carrier steamed toward San Diego, California, May 1, 2003. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Declassified: the 93-page document that justified the invasion of Iraq. The 2002 National Intelligence Estimate raises further questions about the veracity of data used to show that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had restarted his nuclear weapons program. Previously classified dissents from the Department of Energy and Department of State are now public. The case, long criticized for being weak, appears to have been weakened further.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Is the Partner the United States Needs to Get the Job Done

by Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, March 26, 2015. (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters) Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, March 26, 2015. (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

If there is one thing we have learned from the painful experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that success in such missions requires political as much as military solutions. This is why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore worked together just before leaving office to jointly publish their interagency 2009 U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide. In contrast to the U.S. Army’s Counterinsurgency: FM 3-24 (arguably the most famous doctrine ever released, published by General David Petraeus in 2006), this little handbook was aimed squarely at policymakers.

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Afghanistan and Big Data; Russian Nukes in Crimea; New Evidence of Reprisal Attacks by Iraq’s Shiite Militias

by Janine Davidson
Afghan policemen display their skills at a police training centre in Nangarhar Province March 9, 2015. (Parwiz/Courtesy Reuters) Afghan policemen display their skills at a police training centre in Nangarhar Province March 9, 2015. (Parwiz/Courtesy Reuters)

In Afghanistan, a close correlation between Taliban violence and villages’ positive attitudes toward the United States. This is the conclusion of a big-data research project run by Jason Lyall, a political scientist at Yale University. Lyall’s statistical models could help anticipate and prevent Taliban violence in the future.

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