Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 31, 2014
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 Friday, October 24, 2014
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 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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The Air Campaign Against ISIS (II): Military Partnerships Will Be the Deciding Factor

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, October 14, 2014
F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters) F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters)

By Clint Hinote

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. He discusses the role of military partnerships in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, drawing on his own experience as an Air Force weapons and tactics instructor. According to Col. Hinote, international participation—particularly by Arab partner nations—will prove a critical component of the strategy to dismantle ISIS. This piece follows Col Hinote’s previous discussion of the utility of air strikes.

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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 Friday, October 10, 2014
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 Friday, October 3, 2014
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 »

The Air Campaign Against ISIS: Understanding What Air Strikes Can Do—and What They Can’t

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, September 30, 2014
A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to strike operations in Syria in this September 26, 2014 photo released on September 29, 2014. These aircraft were part of a strike package that was engaging ISIL targets in Syria. (Russ Scalf/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to strike operations in Syria in this September 26, 2014 photo released on September 29, 2014. These aircraft were part of a strike package that was engaging ISIL targets in Syria. (Russ Scalf/Courtesy Reuters)

By Clint Hinote

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. He assesses the use and utility of targeted air strikes against ISIS, particularly against their Syrian base of operations, in the context of evolving air power targeting doctrine. He argues that the debate over whether or not U.S. air power will “destroy” ISIS largely misses the point as to the function and intent of these strikes. Disrupting the organization’s infrastructure and assets will refute its claim to “statehood,” blunting its momentum in the process.

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Weekend Reader: A U.S. Army Division Headquarters Deploys to Iraq; The Next Round of Sequester Cuts Loom

by Janine Davidson Friday, September 26, 2014
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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The Anti-ISIS Campaign Has Expanded Into Syria. What Comes Next?

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, September 23, 2014
isis-syria-cruise-missile A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched against ISIL targets from the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, in the Red Sea September 23, 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez Ii/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

On September 22, the air campaign against ISIS expanded into Syria in a coordinated attack that included 47 Tomahawk missiles and nearly 50 coalition aircraft. This action had been all but inevitable since the commencement of overflight reconnaissance in Syria on August 26. Significantly, these strikes also included targets of the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate unrelated to ISIS. Also significantly, five Arab militaries—Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Qatar—participated in the operation. At this stage, there are three important questions to address: the targeting of the strikes, the implications of this action, and potential challenges that might await the operation moving forward.

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Enough with “Boots on the Ground:” What Will the U.S. Advisory Mission in Iraq Look Like?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A U.S. and Iraqi soldier take part in a shooting exercise at an Iraqi military base south of Baghdad August 30, 2010. (Saad Shalash/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. and Iraqi soldier take part in a shooting exercise at an Iraqi military base south of Baghdad August 30, 2010. (Saad Shalash/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert A. Newson

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain Robert A. Newson, CFR’s U.S. Navy fellow and a SEAL officer. CAPT Newson recently served Special Operations Command (Forward) Commander in Yemen 2010-2012, where he helped coordinate military advising efforts in the region. He argues that the reintroduction of U.S. advisory personnel to Iraq does not automatically set the military on a “slippery slope” to full-scale intervention. Rather, the chance of escalation will be determined by three factors: the total required forces, the concept of operations, and any applicable mission restraints. This question will become only more important with late-breaking news of anti-ISIS air strikes’ expansion into Syria.

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