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.

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Showing posts for "Military Policy"

You Might Have Missed: Afghanistan, Targeted Killings, and U.S. Policy Priorities

by Micah Zenko
A U.S. soldier at the site of a suicide attack on a NATO base in Zhari on January 20, 2014. (Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. soldier at the site of a suicide attack on a NATO base in Zhari on January 20, 2014. (Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters)

Alice K. Ross, “Leaked official document records 330 drone strikes in Pakistan,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, January 29, 2014. Read more »

Guest Post: The Humans Behind Remotely Piloted Aircraft

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Travis, a 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) sensor operator, and Ben, a 432nd Wing/432nd AEW RPA pilot, fly an MQ-1 Predator during the wings 2 million flying hour milestone on October 22, 2013. (Courtesy U.S. Air Force) Travis, a 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) sensor operator, and Ben, a 432nd Wing/432nd AEW RPA pilot, fly an MQ-1 Predator during the wings 2 million flying hour milestone on October 22, 2013. (Courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Priscilla Kim is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.S. Air Force trains more remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) pilots than traditional fighter and bomber pilots combined—350 RPA pilots compared to 250 fighter and bomber pilots in 2011. Additionally, one in every three planes is unmanned, and the Pentagon intends to double the number of unmanned aircraft systems from 340 to 650 by 2021. If RPA proliferation is not complemented with policy changes that effectively address the concerns of RPA pilots, there could be damaging overall effects for U.S. military forces. Read more »

Ten What’s With…Daniel Markey

by Micah Zenko
No Exit from Pakistan:America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad by Daniel Markey No Exit from Pakistan:America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad by Daniel Markey

Daniel Markey is Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he specializes in security and governance issues in South Asia. He has published a book on the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad (Cambridge University Press, October 2013). Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Afghanistan, Threat Deflation, and Signature Strikes

by Micah Zenko
Students gather at the site of a suspected U.S. drone strike on an Islamic seminary in Hangu district, bordering North Waziristan, November 21, 2013 (Syed Shah/Courtesy Reuters). Students gather at the site of a suspected U.S. drone strike on an Islamic seminary in Hangu district, bordering North Waziristan, November 21, 2013 (Syed Shah/Courtesy Reuters).

The Uses of Force,” Economist, November 23, 2013.

It’s too easy to use force,” says Admiral Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “It’s almost the first choice.”


Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 20, 2013. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Special Operations Raids, European Drones, and CIA Detentions

by Micah Zenko
USS San Antonio The USS San Antonio transits through the Gulf of Oman on February 4, 2009. An elite American interrogation team is now questioning the senior al-Qaeda figure Abu Anas al-Liby, who was seized by special operations forces in Libya, onboard the USS San Antonio in the Mediterranean Sea (Zalasky/Courtesy Reuters).

Hearing to consider the nominations of Mr. Michael D. Lumpkin, Honorable Jamie M. Morin, and Honorable Jo Ann Rooney, U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, October 10, 2013.

Lumpkin: We’re not going to be able to kill our way to victory. One at a time, doing one-eaches…

I would argue [al-Qaeda is] less capable to attack the homeland directly but U.S. interests – it still has the capability. Read more »

The Federal Shutdown and Foreign Credibility

by Micah Zenko
Boehner shutdown Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner at 1:00 am on October 1, 2013, after a vote by the House prompted a shutdown of portions of the U.S. government (Bourg/Courtesy Reuters).

At midnight last night, the U.S. federal government began partial shutdown procedures, which are mandated whenever Congress and the President do not appropriate funds at the start of a new fiscal year, either through an appropriations bill or a continuing resolution. Subsequently, all affected federal agencies have to stop any programs funded by annual appropriations which are not deemed “essential” under the law. This means that employees of these agencies are placed on emergency furlough, a time during which they cannot come to work, bring work home, or even check their work emails. Subsequently the Department of Commerce will lose 87 percent of its workforce, Department of Energy 81 percent, Health and Human Services 52 percent, and the Department of Defense roughly half of its eight-hundred thousand civilian employees. Read more »

Would the Syria Deal Be a Coercive Diplomacy Success?

by Micah Zenko
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad Syrian president Bashar al-Assad during an interview with French daily Le Figaro in Damascus on September 2, 2013 (SANA news agency/Courtesy Reuters).

In the past three days, the Syrian government made an unprecedented acknowledgment that it possesses a chemical weapons program, and that it will place them under the supervision of United Nations (UN) inspectors. As Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem stated on Monday: “We are ready to reveal the locations of the chemical weapon sites and to stop producing chemical weapons and make these sites available for inspection by representatives of Russia, other countries and the United Nations.” This remarkable shift occurred after President Obama declared on August 31 that he would conduct limited strikes against Syrian regime targets, after receiving congressional authorization. Subsequently, the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that it was only the credible threat of force that compelled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reportedly agree to the initiative that had been discussed between American and Russian diplomats for months. Read more »

JP 3-60 Joint Targeting and U.S. Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
Reaper UAV A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the 174th Fighter Wing, New York Air National Guard, takes off on a training mission at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, Fort Drum, N.Y. in February 2013 (Best/Courtesy Reuters)

On February 27, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the updated version of Joint Publication 3-60 (JP 3-60): Joint Targeting. A short 154 days later, the Joint Staff provided me with a complete version of it, “without excision.” It is available in full here (PDF). For the previous 2007 version of JP 3-60 see here. Read more »

Formalizing Oversight of Military Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who stands at the podium, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon on November 6, 2003 (Ward/Courtesy Department of Defense). Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who stands at the podium, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon on November 6, 2003 (Ward/Courtesy Department of Defense).

On Friday, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), vice chairman of the house armed services committee (HASC), introduced a bi-partisan bill with twenty-nine co-sponsors. The full text of the bill (H.R. 1914) was only made available today by the Library of Congress. The “Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act” essentially formalizes into law existing oversight procedures for non-battlefield capture or targeted killing operations conducted by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces. As Thornberry acknowledged last week, “We’ve been doing a lot of this oversight anyway,” with the military briefing the HASC’s subcommittee on intelligence, emerging threats, and capabilities within “hours or days” after drone strikes or other “lethal targeting actions.” This is much faster reporting than required under current law—a “global update on activity within each geographic combatant command” every three months. Read more »