Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Four Things You Didn’t Know About the U.S. Air Force’s Role in Fighting Ebola

by Janine Davidson
A group of 30 U.S. military personnel, bound for Liberia to help in global efforts to fight the Ebola virus outbreak, board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, October 19, 2014 in a picture provided by the US military. (Maj. Dale Greer/Courtesy Reuters) A group of 30 U.S. military personnel, bound for Liberia to help in global efforts to fight the Ebola virus outbreak, board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, October 19, 2014 in a picture provided by the US military. (Maj. Dale Greer/Courtesy Reuters)

With so much misinformation circulating about the scale and domestic danger of the Ebola threat, less attention has been paid to the U.S. military’s effort to stem the disease’s spread in Africa. Operation United Assistance is now well underway, drawing the joint armed services together with a wide range of interagency and multinational partners. While the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division have been the most visible element of this operation, much of the behind-the-scenes work has been conducted by the U.S. Air Force. I spoke with Air Force participants to get a sense of this contribution:

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

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

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

by Janine Davidson
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
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
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 »

Bob Work Speaks: Out of the Spotlight, The Asia-Pacific Rebalance Continues on Course

by Janine Davidson
U.S. And Philippine soldiers pose for photos in front of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an Air Operations and Aircraft Static Display as part of the BALIKATAN 2013 (shoulder-to-shoulder) combined U.S.-Philippines military exercise at the formerly U.S. bases, Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, north of Manila April 13, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. And Philippine soldiers pose for photos in front of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an Air Operations and Aircraft Static Display as part of the BALIKATAN 2013 (shoulder-to-shoulder) combined U.S.-Philippines military exercise at the formerly U.S. bases, Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, north of Manila April 13, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work on September 30 for one of his first public events since his confirmation five months ago. Work, an experienced hand in maritime strategy and force disposition, explained the quiet steps by which the military rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has continued on course. Amid the loud headlines out of Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, it is easy to forget that much of U.S. foreign policy is still being developed in anticipation of a “Pacific Century.” While unexpected contingencies like ISIS have dictated the tempo and focus of deployed troops, they have, according to Deputy Secretary Work, not hindered the overall rebalance, which largely continues apace.

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Weekend Reader: A U.S. Army Division Headquarters Deploys to Iraq; The Next Round of Sequester Cuts Loom

by Janine Davidson
A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014. (Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Courtesy Reuters) A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014. (Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Courtesy Reuters)

The 500-person headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division (‘The Big Red One’) will soon be in IraqWhat does this mean? As Joseph Trevithick

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