Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson 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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Weekend Reader: The Quiet Abandonment of Afghan Development; ISIS Tightens Noose Around Baghdad

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 17, 2014
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: Poroshenko Speaks from the Floor of Congress; Australia Foils an ISIS Terror Attack

by Janine Davidson Friday, September 19, 2014
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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At Wales Summit, NATO Should Not Forget the War It’s Already Fighting

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson 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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Weekend Reader: Afghan Election Turmoil, Dam Warfare, and the Geopolitics of the World Cup Final

by Janine Davidson Friday, July 11, 2014
afghanistan-election-defense-us Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a gathering with his supporters in Kabul, July 8, 2014. Abdullah told thousands of supporters on Tuesday he was the winner of last month's run-off election, putting himself on a collision course with his arch-rival, Ashraf Ghani. (Omar Sobhani /Courtesy Reuters)

Grim dispatches from Afghanistan’s “increasingly troubled” presidential election. With the world distracted, the news out of Afghanistan keeps getting worse. The likely loser, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused the government of “industrial-scale” fraud—and threatened not to accept the results. Meanwhile, a new United Nations report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan shows a sharp increase beginning in 2013, drawing the fate of the nation into deeper question.

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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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In Afghanistan, Path to Lasting Success Will Also Be the Hardest

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Monday, April 7, 2014
An Afghan woman waits to receive her voter card at a voter registration center in Kabul, March 30, 2014. (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters) An Afghan woman waits to receive her voter card at a voter registration center in Kabul, March 30, 2014. (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

Afghanistan’s April 5 elections were well attended, successful, and – most importantly – relatively safe. According to preliminary reports, the Taliban did not launch a single major attack from the time polls opened to the time they closed. The most striking concern was not a failure in security (there were 140 attacks this year, compared to 500 in 2009), but rather a shortage of ballots. While often indicative of vote tampering, this also revealed the zeal with which Afghans went to the polls.

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Introducing Defense in Depth

by Janine Davidson Thursday, March 6, 2014
A view of the Pentagon and Washington, DC. A view of the Pentagon and Washington, DC (Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense).

Defense in Depth is a new blog about the art, politics, and business of American military power. I will track the big issues facing policymakers as they grapple with downshifting in Afghanistan, rebalancing to Asia, and maintaining a ready and capable force structure amidst sustained fiscal pressures.

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