Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

The Battle for Afghanistan Will Be Decided by Development

by Sam Ehrlich Thursday, May 21, 2015
An Afghan girl works on a wheat field in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan May 14, 2015. (Parwiz/Courtesy Reuters) An Afghan girl works on a wheat field in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan May 14, 2015. (Parwiz/Courtesy Reuters)

By Sam Ehrlich

Afghan development is more critical than ever, but as U.S. eyes turn elsewhere, there is less interest in sustaining good investment, much less maintaining adequate resources for this purpose. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction(SIGAR) John Sopko’s remarks at Weill Cornell Medical College earlier this month were a stark reminder of just how necessary sustained aid funding will be, as development objectives are far from complete. The goal is not a “perfect” solution—Afghanistan will not become an advanced democracy overnight—but we must put the nation on a sustainable path.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Is the Partner the United States Needs to Get the Job Done

by Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking Thursday, March 26, 2015
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, March 26, 2015. (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters) Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, March 26, 2015. (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

If there is one thing we have learned from the painful experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that success in such missions requires political as much as military solutions. This is why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore worked together just before leaving office to jointly publish their interagency 2009 U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide. In contrast to the U.S. Army’s Counterinsurgency: FM 3-24 (arguably the most famous doctrine ever released, published by General David Petraeus in 2006), this little handbook was aimed squarely at policymakers.

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Afghanistan’s Riddle: For Lasting Stability, U.S. Presence Is One Important Step Among Many

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, March 25, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington March 24, 2015. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington March 24, 2015. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

By James West

Yesterday’s announcement of a new timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal will see the full 9,800 U.S. contingent remain in Afghanistan through at least the end of 2015. This marks an important, positive step in building Afghan stability as it acknowledges that while the combat mission may have ended, much work remains to be done. Equally important is the pledge to request Congress’ continued funding of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), maintaining a goal of 352,000 soldiers and policemen through 2017 and costing roughly $4 billion dollars. Continuing U.S. support will be required as Afghanistan seeks to develop and diversify its infrastructure and economy, secure international aid, and enhance regional integration necessary to prevent disintegration along ethnic lines and an amplified civil war. All of these steps are necessary to keep Afghanistan safe, free, and secure.

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

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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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In the Last Days of Afghanistan, Too Many Shadows of Vietnam

by Robert A. Newson Wednesday, December 17, 2014
A shadow cast by a U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment shades spent brass strewn on the ground during a joint training mission, near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 12, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters) A shadow cast by a U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment shades spent brass strewn on the ground during a joint training mission, near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 12, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

Recently, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a screening of Rory Kennedy’s film Last Days in Vietnam. The stunning documentary, with never-before seen-footage, tells the story of courageous Americans at the U.S. embassy and on ships at sea who put their lives and their careers on the line to rescue 77,000 South Vietnamese during the fall of Saigon. These heroes did all they could as individuals to meet an American obligation to those who stand with us in our foreign wars—those who risk their lives and the lives of their families against a common enemy. The film also tells the story of an American government that came very slow and far too late to uphold this obligation.

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Why Is a Comedian the Only One Talking About the Plight of Afghan Interpreters?

by Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson Thursday, October 23, 2014
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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At Wales Summit, NATO Should Not Forget the War It’s Already Fighting

by Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking Wednesday, September 3, 2014
A French Army captain and mentor (L) supervises an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer during a shooting training session at the Kabul Military Training Center April 13, 2009. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters) A French Army captain and mentor (L) supervises an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer during a shooting training session at the Kabul Military Training Center April 13, 2009. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

This week,  NATO leaders will gather in Wales for the 2014 NATO summit—arguably the most important since the fall of the Berlin Wall.   The crisis in Ukraine and the growing challenge from ISIS are sure to dominate the agenda.  But as menacing as these threats are, NATO leaders should not forget about Afghanistan, where NATO’s International  Stability Assistance Force (ISAF) is struggling to bring this thirteen-year war to an end.  As our experience in Iraq should make abundantly clear, the pace and manner by which international troops (and aid dollars) withdraw and the durability of NATO’s commitment to the region will greatly influence what comes afterward.

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It’s Time to Talk About the Role of U.S. Civilians in Modern War

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Monday, July 28, 2014
usaid-iraq-afghanistan Rear Admiral Gregory Smith (L), director of the Multi-National Force – Iraq’s Communications Division, and Denise Herbol, deputy director of USAID – Iraq, in Baghdad January 13, 2008. (Wathiq Khuzaie/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Phillip Carter

There is a new bill currently languishing in Congressional committee, the “Combat Zone Tax Parity Act,” which would grant federal civilian employees deployed to combat zones the same tax benefits as the military servicemen who fight alongside them. It comes long overdue.

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Interview with KQED Radio: the Afghanistan Drawdown and the Strength of Enduring Alliances

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, June 4, 2014
us allies U.S. marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, March 31, 2014. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters)

I was recently interviewed by KQED Radio’s “Forum with Michael Krasny,” alongside Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Barry Pavel, vice president and director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with many of the themes discussed. Among my observations: Read more »

What Next for Afghanistan? Making Sense of President Obama’s Rose Garden Announcement

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, May 27, 2014
afghanistan obama drawdown U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an announcement on the number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan after the formal troop drawdown at the end of this year, in the White House Rose Garden in Washington, May 27, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Today, President Obama announced his plan for winding down the thirteen-year intervention in Afghanistan.  On the military side, here is the summary on how many troops will remain and what they will be doing:

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