Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Military Operations"

Top Ten Findings of the CIA Inspector General’s Report on 9/11

by Micah Zenko
An aerial view of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Reed/Reuters) An aerial view of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Reed/Reuters)

Last week, in response to long-standing FOIA requests, the CIA declassified—with significant redactions—five documents related to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The most notable was a June 2005 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report into CIA accountability regarding the findings of the Report of the Joint Inquiry into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, which was produced by the House and Senate intelligence committees. That joint inquiry was published in December 2002—long before the 9/11 Commission report—and served as the most comprehensive public investigation into Intelligence Community (IC) shortcomings. The 2005 OIG report reviewed the joint inquiry’s central findings to determine if senior CIA officials should be reprimanded for their actions. Read more »

Deepening the U.S. Military Commitment in Iraq

by Micah Zenko
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions about an apparent bomb threat after evacuated journalists returned to the press briefing room at the White House in Washington on June 9, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters). White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions about an apparent bomb threat after evacuated journalists returned to the press briefing room at the White House in Washington on June 9, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters).

Yesterday, the White House announced the deployment of “450 additional U.S. military personnel to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province.” It is easy to conceive of this latest limited addition of U.S. troops to Iraq, and nearby countries, in isolation, and as the logical and necessary next-step in the expanding campaign against ISIL. However, the White House has been announcing troop deployments, with varying justifications and objectives, for over a year now. If you are one of the few people truly interested in how the United States has gradually slid into this open-ended conflict, with little public debate, and zero congressional input, it is worthwhile to review some of the notable milestones along the way. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Airpower in Iraq, Sanctions Effectiveness, and Military Intervention

by Micah Zenko

Department of Defense, Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman III, Combined Forces Air Component commander (CFACC) press briefing, June 5, 2015.

About the only thing airpower doesn’t do is take, hold, and govern territory. The Iraqis are going to have to do that. And this airpower campaign is going to give them the time and space to do that… Read more »

Does U.S. Foreign Policy Spur National Security Threats?

by Micah Zenko
CIA Director John Brennan listens to remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Director of National Intelligence Office to mark its 10th anniversary on April 24, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters) CIA Director John Brennan listens to remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Director of National Intelligence Office to mark its 10th anniversary on April 24, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters)

Yesterday on “Face the Nation,” CIA Director John Brennan made an unnoticed but significant acknowledgement about the conduct and consequences of U.S. foreign policy and the ongoing war on terrorism. Asked whether President Obama “seems to be just trying to buy time here, that he’s not ready to make a full commitment here in this war on terrorism and basically is just trying to keep things together well enough that he can leave it to the next president to resolve it. Do you see that?” Brennan responded: Read more »

Is U.S. Foreign Policy Making Americans Less Safe?

by Micah Zenko
FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson listen during President Barack Obama's speech about the National Security Agency (NSA) at the Justice Department in Washington on January 17, 2014. (Lamarque/Reuters) FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson listen during President Barack Obama's speech about the National Security Agency (NSA) at the Justice Department in Washington on January 17, 2014. (Lamarque/Reuters)

Senior U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials increasingly warn of the threat of “lone wolf” individuals attempting terror attacks within the United States. These potential perpetrators are characterized as externally motivated, but predominantly self-directed in plotting and attempting acts of politically and/or ideologically motivated violence. They need not travel to purported foreign “safe havens” to receive training or guidance, nor be in direct contact with terrorist organizations based abroad. Rather, their inspiration, in large part, appears to stem from the principles and narratives promoted by Islamist jihadist groups. Read more »

Nine Months of Coalition Air Strikes Against the Islamic State

by Micah Zenko
A Royal Jordanian Air Force plane takes off from an air base to strike the self-declared Islamic State in the Syrian city of Raqqa on February 5, 2015. (Petra News Agency/Reuters) A Royal Jordanian Air Force plane takes off from an air base to strike the self-declared Islamic State in the Syrian city of Raqqa on February 5, 2015. (Petra News Agency/Reuters)

Today marks the nine month anniversary since the start of the U.S.-led air campaign, later named Operation Inherent Resolve, against the self-declared Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. The air war, which Secretary of State John Kerry then described as definitively not a war, but rather “a heightened level of counterterrorism operation,” shows no sign of ending. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin told the House Armed Services Committee in March, “The enemy is now in a ‘defensive crouch,’ and is unable to conduct major operations.” The Pentagon has released a series of maps that purportedly detail the loss of territory under control by IS. However, the number and competence of Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces required to ultimately defeat IS militants on the ground, and then control, secure, and administer newly freed territory, are lacking. In an unnoticed indicator found in the prepared testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, two U.S. Air Force lieutenant generals acknowledged: “These combat operations are expected to continue long-term (3+ years).”   Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes, Nation-building, and the U.S. Aviation Inventory

by Micah Zenko

Elisabeth Bumiller, “Soldier, Thinker, Hunter, Spy: Drawing a Bead on Al Qaeda,” New York Times, September 3, 2011.

In Mr. [Michael] Vickers’s [top adviser to then-secretary of defense Leon E. Panetta] assessment, there are perhaps four important Qaeda leaders left in Pakistan, and 10 to 20 leaders over all in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Even if the United States kills them all in drone strikes, Mr. Vickers said, “You still have Al Qaeda, the idea.” Read more »

Yemen: The Worst Reason for War

by Micah Zenko
People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike, launched by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi militia, near Sanaa Airport in Yemen on March 31, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters) People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike, launched by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi militia, near Sanaa Airport in Yemen on March 31, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters)

The excellent New York Times journalists David K. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim have an article tacking stock of the nine-day old Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi and Houthi-affiliated fighting forces in Yemen. On the evening of the first airstrikes, the White House revealed that the United States was aiding this intervention: “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Yemen, Islamic State, and MDGs

by Micah Zenko
Shiite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen on March 26, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters) Shiite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen on March 26, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters)

Lt. Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski and Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, “Presentation to the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, House of Representatives,” U.S. Department of the Air Force, March 26, 2015, p. 16.

All three mission areas (Stand-Off, Direct Attack, and Penetrator munitions) in the Air-to-Surface munitions inventory are short of inventory objectives. Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and SDB weapons along with Low Observable platforms are force multipliers in a highly contested environment and their shortage could increase friendly force attrition driving a much higher level of effort enabling the attack of other critical targets. Read more »

How the U.S. Military Thinks About Complexity

by Micah Zenko
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 6, 2014. (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 6, 2014. (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

If you routinely read Pentagon reports, speeches, hearings transcripts, and news articles, you occasionally come across an assumption or claim that stands out. Yesterday, the Pentagon released a news article that summarized a speech given by Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. David Goldfein at the Brookings Institution. The article included the line: “Last year was the most complex year since 1968, the general said.” Read more »