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James Kitfield

James Kitfield James Kitfield a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress and a Defense One contributor. He is a former senior correspondent for National Journal and has written on defense, national security and foreign policy issues from Washington, D.C. for more than two decades.
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Iran containment strategy cast in doubt

October 12, 2011 The de facto U.S. strategy of containing an Iran on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons may have just gotten a lot more dangerous. That strategy of isolating Tehran internationally, and building an anti-Iran alliance along its periphery protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, relied on the "rational actor" theory...

Domestic policy in Washington, Baghdad at play in troop-level decision

September 7, 2011 Reports that the Pentagon may leave only a token U.S. force of 3,000 to 4,000 troops in Iraq at year's end suggest that domestic politics have trumped strategic calculations in both Washington and Baghdad. For its part, the White House is determined to fulfill President Obama's pledge to finally end...

Deficit debate drags military into political fray

August 16, 2011 The debt-ceiling agreement reached by the Obama administration and Congress essentially released the hostage of America's good faith and credit, only to replace it with the Defense Department. Now U.S. military leaders have gotten a good look at the faces of their captors, and the fact they recognize once reliable...

General gives upbeat assessment of progress in Afghanistan

December 7, 2010 KABUL, Afghanistan -- On the eve of a long-anticipated review of Afghan war strategy, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met here Tuesday with his wartime commander, who gave a relatively upbeat assessment of the war effort. Army Gen. David Petraeus reported that U.S. and allied forces had not only arrested the...

Master of disaster reflects on Deepwater Horizon's enduring lessons

August 18, 2010 At some point in the next week, BP will likely initiate the "bottom kill" procedure that permanently plugs the Macondo well, bringing to an end the worst maritime oil spill in American history. No more 24/7 video of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. No more weekly tutorials on...

Haiti response effort brings lessons from Katrina

February 9, 2010 In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States launched the most sweeping reorganization of the federal government in half a century, in part to help harden the homeland against another attack and to better coordinate response to a future disaster. The government's initial, fumbling response...

Afghanistan is Obama's war now

October 16, 2009 President Obama has called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" and the central battlefield in the fight against Al Qaeda and its network of violent extremist groups. Some of his earliest moves in office were to craft a new strategy for the conflict, to hand-pick diplomats and generals to implement it,...

Expert says nuclear terrorism is not a major threat

October 20, 2008 Seven years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, experts and presidential candidates continue to put nuclear terrorism atop their lists of the gravest threats to the United States. Yet Brian Michael Jenkins, a longtime terrorism expert with the Rand Corp., says that the threat lies more in the realms...

Progress in Afghanistan gets rockier

September 15, 2008 HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The CH-47 helicopter carrying Gen. John Craddock and his aides banks sharply, and the machine gunner positioned by the open rear door strains in his harness. The kaleidoscope below rolls from the verdant greens of the Helmand River basin to brown scrublands and then the bleached-white...

Coast Guard reaches milestone in massive equipment modernization project

June 2, 2008 The Coast Guard recently reached a milestone when it took delivery of the cutter Bertholf, the first ship in a new line of eight vessels known as National Security Cutters. The Bertholf, at 418 feet long, and named for the Coast Guard's first commandant, Ellsworth P. Bertholf, is the first...