Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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The Specter of ISIS’ Foreign Recruits; Ash Carter’s Listening Tour

by Janine Davidson
Spanish civil guards lead a detained man suspected of using social media to recruit people to violent groups like the Islamic State, in Spain's North African enclave Melilla, February 24, 2015. (Jesus Blasco de Avellaneda/Courtesy Reuters) Spanish civil guards lead a detained man suspected of using social media to recruit people to violent groups like the Islamic State, in Spain's North African enclave Melilla, February 24, 2015. (Jesus Blasco de Avellaneda/Courtesy Reuters)

ISIS made headlines again with the abduction of hundreds of Assyrian Christians in northeastern Syria. Across the Iraq border, ISIS pointed its efforts this week towards destroying history, including ancient books and sculptures. However, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is showing progress; General (ret.) John Allen, special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, commented that half of the ISIS leaders in Iraq have now been targeted and killed. General Allen continued that the goal should be to make this terrorist group inoperable; in his mind, it is unlikely they will ever be completely eradicated.

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ISIS Traces Its Roots to 2003

by Janine Davidson
A resident of Tabqa city touring the streets on a motorcycle waves an Islamist flag in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) A resident of Tabqa city touring the streets on a motorcycle waves an Islamist flag in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

This week, I had the opportunity to hear my friend Emma Sky speak at the New America Foundation’s first annual Future of War Conference, held here in Washington, DC.  Emma was General Ray Odierno’s political adviser during the 2007 “surge” in Iraq and is one of the smartest people I know (check out her new book about it all, The Unraveling, due to be released soon). Although she was only allotted three short minutes to speak on the panel, her message about the origins of ISIS and the shortfalls in the US strategy were as clear and compelling as they were depressing.

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Prioritize Operations, Ban PowerPoint: Ash Carter Is off to a Good Start

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (C) holds a regional security meeting at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait February 23, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (C) holds a regional security meeting at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait February 23, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

On February 17, Ash Carter was formally sworn in as the twenty-fifth Secretary of Defense. Within his first week on the job, he’s wrapped up intensive, fact-finding trips to both Afghanistan and Kuwait. This sends a powerful message about his priorities: although Carter previously distinguished himself as a thoughtful student of Pentagon bureaucracy, budgeting, and acquisitions, in his new role, current opsand getting the strategy rightcome first.

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A Savage Ukrainian Defeat at Debaltseve; What ISIS Really Wants

by Janine Davidson
A Ukrainian serviceman who fought in Debaltseve is seen in a bus before leaving for his home, near Artemivsk February 19, 2015. (Gleb Garanich/Courtesy Reuters) A Ukrainian serviceman who fought in Debaltseve is seen in a bus before leaving for his home, near Artemivsk February 19, 2015. (Gleb Garanich/Courtesy Reuters)

In a breach that may mark the end of an abbreviated ceasefire, fighting resumed in Ukraine over the town of Debaltseve, a strategic location in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian troops endured a terrifying, chaotic retreat from Debaltseve early Wednesday; an estimated 170 casualties occurred during the withdrawal, with even more thought to be captured or missing. The evacuation of Ukrainian forces came just days after the Minsk ceasefire went into effect on Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sympathy, mocking Ukrainian’s inability to defend against, “people who were yesterday working down in the mines or driving tractors.” Leaders in Kiev are now worried that pro-Russian separatists are preparing for a heavy assault on the strategic port of Mariupol, located on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov.

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An AUMF at Last; One More Try for Ukrainian Ceasefire; Afghanistan Exit in Flux?

by Janine Davidson
U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R) as he delivers a statement on legislation sent to Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington February 11, 2015. Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State that would bar any large-scale invasion by U.S. ground troops and limit operations to three years. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R) as he delivers a statement on legislation sent to Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington February 11, 2015. Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State that would bar any large-scale invasion by U.S. ground troops and limit operations to three years. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama, after six months of using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to justify the fight against ISIS, has released his draft for a new, ISIS-specific AUMF. In a public statement on Wednesday, Obama outlined his vision and expectations for the new authorization. Members of Congress have raised criticism on the issues of associated terrorist groups, geographic limits, and the use of ground forces. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA 28) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted that the lack of geographic limitations could allow the President to pursue terrorist groups in North and West Africa. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-IA) attacked the draft for its vague language, asserting that it was, “ambiguous and could leave us in perpetual debate on what the military is authorized to do.” With so much criticism from both parties, the stage is set for a wide-ranging congressional debate. The bill will appear before Congress next week.

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The 2015 Munich Security Conference: Debate Among Allies? Yes. Disunity? No.

by Janine Davidson
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko holds Russian passports to prove the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine as he addresses during the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 7, 2015. (Michael Dalder/Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko holds Russian passports to prove the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine as he addresses during the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 7, 2015. (Michael Dalder/Courtesy Reuters)

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the fifty-first Munich Security Conference. This annual event provides a high level forum for transatlantic leaders—and increasingly leaders from other parts of the world—to meet and debate major security issues. The sidebar meetings and “bilats,” among the participants are as important as the major plenary sessions, where leaders take the opportunity to express their country’s positions or in many cases propose new approaches to solving problems. Munich is where the major powers annually reaffirm their continued commitment to transatlantic cooperation in service to core Western values: democracy, rule of law, human rights.

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Ash Carter’s Nomination Hearing: What to Watch For

by Janine Davidson
Ash Carter, President Obama's nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense, arrives to meet with Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) (not pictured) at Reed's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 22, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) Ash Carter, President Obama's nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense, arrives to meet with Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) (not pictured) at Reed's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 22, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Ash Carter faces the Senate Armed Services Committee today for his confirmation hearing. You can watch it live on CSPAN at 9:30 a.m. EST.

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Putin’s Invasion Continues to Widen. Let’s Give Ukraine What It Needs to Push Back.

by Janine Davidson
A Ukrainian serviceman is seen during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. (Oleksandr Klymenko/Courtesy Reuters) A Ukrainian serviceman is seen during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. (Oleksandr Klymenko/Courtesy Reuters)

Amid renewed fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists (as well as Russian regulars), the New York Times reports that U.S. senior officials are finally considering providing lethal aid to Ukraine’s beleaguered military. U.S. advocates reportedly include General Phillip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of State John Kerry; and even national security adviser Susan Rice, who has been critical of such proposals to date. This potential shift comes at a critical time: according to NATO, Ukrainian separatists, with substantial support from Russian forces, have captured 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of new territory since the “official” September 5 ceasefire. Likewise, the deployment of Russian heavy armor and artillery has accelerated since the beginning of 2015, sending a clear signal that Vladimir Putin intends—at best—to keep Ukraine in a state of bloody stasis. At worst,  he could expand his invasion further.

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A Bold Proposal for Military Compensation Reform; Curtains Close on Afghan War Transparency

by Janine Davidson
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers take part in a training exercise at a military base in Kabul November 23, 2014. (Omar Sobhan/Courtesy Reuters) Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers take part in a training exercise at a military base in Kabul November 23, 2014. (Omar Sobhan/Courtesy Reuters)

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) released their recommendation on military compensation reforms on ThursdayMilitary compensation encompasses current pay, retirement, health care, and quality of life. Defense in Depth has compiled its own tally of facts, figures, and graphs to help contextualize this debate. The MCRMC, first created by the FY 2013 NDAA, will be tasked with updating this system for the first time in twenty years.

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