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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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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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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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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Growing Fears of Sectarian Retaliation in Tikrit; Tragedy off the Florida Panhandle

by Janine Davidson
Eleven flags line the road across from the staging area where crews search waters around the Navarre Bridge following the crash of a military helicopter, east of Pensacola, Florida March 11, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/Courtesy Reuters) Eleven flags line the road across from the staging area where crews search waters around the Navarre Bridge following the crash of a military helicopter, east of Pensacola, Florida March 11, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/Courtesy Reuters)

Fears of sectarian retaliation amid the battle to retake Tikrit. The ethnic targeting of Sunni residents by Shiite militias had been a persistent cause for concern during operations to liberate Tikrit. The Iraqi force that regained control of Tikrit was composed of 20,000 Shiite fighters and only 1,000 Sunni. However, a member of one of the main Shiite militias argued that the battle of Tikrit, “has proven to the world that the Sunnis and Shia are united.” In addition to worry over the conduct of Shiite militias, U.S. officials are also investigating potential atrocities committed by U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces.

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The Battle for Tikrit Begins; An Online War Against ISIS; Laser Weapons Inch Closer to Reality

by Janine Davidson
Shi'ite fighters fire a rocket during clashes with Islamic State militants in Salahuddin province March 1, 2015. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite militiamen sought to seal off Islamic State fighters in Tikrit and nearby towns on Tuesday, the second day of Iraq's biggest offensive yet against a stronghold of the Sunni militants. Picture taken March 1, 2015. (Ahmed Al-Hussaini/Courtesy Reuters) Shi'ite fighters fire a rocket during clashes with Islamic State militants in Salahuddin province March 1, 2015. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite militiamen sought to seal off Islamic State fighters in Tikrit and nearby towns on Tuesday, the second day of Iraq's biggest offensive yet against a stronghold of the Sunni militants. Picture taken March 1, 2015. (Ahmed Al-Hussaini/Courtesy Reuters)

The battle now rages for the ISIS-held, northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. ISIS captured Tikrit, located roughly seventy miles north of Baghdad, in June 2014, marking their second significant gain after Mosul. The Institute for the Study of War has been keeping a thorough tracking of the Iraqi army’s offensive since February 26. Notably, this offensive has not been coordinated with the United States. Of the 30,000 pro-government fighters, two thirds are drawn from Shiite militias, and Iranian influence is pervasive throughout.  Iraqi forces’ initial advance into Tirkit has been stymied by roadside bombs and suicide attacks—the same tactics used to such great effect by Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), ISIS’ predecessor, some ten years ago.

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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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