Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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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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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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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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U.S. Navy Prepares for Yemen Evacuation; The Battle(s) for Donetsk Airport; The New Cyber Arms Race

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

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

Yemen, the U.S. hope for a counterterrorism ally in the region, is falling into civil war. News came Thursday of the resignation of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, adding to the deterioration of the country. As the home to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen was a key partner in the fight against terrorism. While Yemen was an integral part of President Obama’s anti-terror strategy, it is unclear how the U.S. will proceed. With an attempt for peace and a constitutional revision clearly failed, the U.S. will assess its next actions carefully. With widespread violence and clashes continuing this week, the U.S. Navy is taking preparatory steps for a possible evacuation, should American officials in Yemen face unacceptable risk.

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