Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Tensions Broil in Ukraine; Cyber Wargames; The First Armed Drone Operator Breaks Silence

by Janine Davidson
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters)

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

Ukraine: “a slow collapse?” That’s the opinion of the New York Times editorial board. Meanwhile, the United States steps up delivery of non-lethal aid to Ukraine, including its first Humvees. The ceasefire continues to fray: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns that Ukraine’s planned economic blockade of the eastern separatists “paves the way for a new invasion.” Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, concludes that eastern Ukraine’s Donbas has effectively become a Russian protectorate. The crisis isn’t over.

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Fight Against ISIS Continues To Scale; Uncertainty Swirls Around Iran Nuclear Talks

by Janine Davidson
Syrian fighters fire a machinegun against Islamic State positions from a location west of Kobani during fighting on November 4, 2014 A Syrian rebel flag covers the front of the truck. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters) Syrian fighters fire a machinegun against Islamic State positions from a location west of Kobani during fighting on November 4, 2014 A Syrian rebel flag covers the front of the truck. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters)

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

On November 10, President Obama called for more funds to be allocated in the fight against ISIS. The key figures highlighted in the 34-page letter from the Office of Management and Budget include: Read more »

Afghan Casualties “Not Sustainable;” The Return of Tiered Readiness; Russian Fracturing of NATO

by Janine Davidson
Mohammad Zaman (R), a 45-year-old local policeman who was wounded in Daikundi province, and Abdul Basir, a 25-year-old national policeman who was wounded in Zabul, sit at an ICRC hospital for war victims at the Orthopedic Center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, August 26, 2014. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters) Mohammad Zaman (R), a 45-year-old local policeman who was wounded in Daikundi province, and Abdul Basir, a 25-year-old national policeman who was wounded in Zabul, sit at an ICRC hospital for war victims at the Orthopedic Center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, August 26, 2014. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Afghan troop troubles linger in a transforming nation. Afghan forces suffered 4,634 casualties this year—a jump from 4,350 in 2013. Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson commented that these casualty numbers are “not sustainable.” As U.S. troop levels dwindle (with 9,800 left in Afghanistan by early 2015), it will be crucial that Afghan forces become self-sufficient.

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New Estimates of the Cost of the ISIS Fight; Baltic-Russia Tensions; The Looming U.S. Midterms

by Janine Davidson
A Kurdish boy has his face painted with the U.S. and the Kurdish flags as he waits to greet Peshmerga fighters near the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province October 29, 2014. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters) A Kurdish boy has his face painted with the U.S. and the Kurdish flags as he waits to greet Peshmerga fighters near the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province October 29, 2014. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters)

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

The new daily cost of operations against ISIS: $8.3 million per dayThis latest Pentagon estimate is a marked increase from last week’s estimate of $7.6 million per day. The total cost of anti-ISIS operations has now likely passed $1 billion. In the Best Defense, Colonel Gary Anderson, USMC (ret.) argues that the effort against ISIS will grow more effective if U.S. policymakers admit that they have adopted a containment strategy. Meanwhile, ISIS itself seems to have mixed up its social media strategy, responding directly to reports by mainstream Western press.

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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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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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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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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 »

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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Weekend Reader: Poroshenko Speaks from the Floor of Congress; Australia Foils an ISIS Terror Attack

by Janine Davidson
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko (C) gestures while addressing a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 18, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) listen from behind Poroshenko. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko (C) gestures while addressing a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 18, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) listen from behind Poroshenko. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks to the American public in a rare joint session of Congress. “Don’t let Ukraine stand alone,” he said in the September 18 address, pleading for direct military supplies. In a U.S. aid package announced the same day, such armaments were noticeably absent. Meanwhile, new Russian mobilizations on the Ukraine-Crimean border suggest that they are prepared to open a new front. And in Russia, BBC journalists have been injured in a coordinated attack by unidentified individuals following their investigation of the death of a Russian soldier, killed “in military exercises on the Ukrainian border.”

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