Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

In the Last Days of Afghanistan, Too Many Shadows of Vietnam

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson 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)

By Robert A. Newson

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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CIA Interrogation Report; How ISIS Was Hatched in Iraq’s Camp Bucca Prison

by Janine Davidson Friday, December 12, 2014
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

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

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its controversial report on CIA interrogation methods this past Tuesday.  The report characterized the CIA as brutal, ineffective, and misleading. Many questions remain as to the involvement of Bush administration officials in authorizing and overseeing this program. Republican Senators on the committee (with the exception of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) have issued their own report rebutting many claims of impropriety. Likewise, six former CIA directors and deputy directors penned a Wall Street Journal op ed assailing the report’s credibility. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) crossed the partisan boundary to endorse the document, including his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam as testimony.

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

by Janine Davidson Friday, November 7, 2014
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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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 »