Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

Compounds

Some days ago I visited the bazaar at Jalalabad, and took a bunch of colorful photographs and met many friendly people.  Walking through Jalalabad, one could almost forget there was a war.  But for the most part, this war is today being fought not in the cities, but the villages and small family compounds where most Afghanis live.

Urban counterinsurgency can be incredibly dangerous, yet the population has a common life.  City dwellers are dependent on civil services like water, sewage and electricity; they often have specialized roles in complex economies.  Their feelings and opinions form a political aggregate which both the democrat and terrorist must heed.   These elements of common life give the urban population a center of gravity which can reach a tipping point and shift, either toward the insurgent or the government.  In Iraq, most people live in cities or towns.  When the center of gravity in certain communities began shifting against Al Qaeda and other groups, the shifts had a profound impact on the war.  Also, Iraq, as Afghanistan, has powerful tribes which can behave like “voting blocs.”  Often they vote with bullets.

Read more: Compounds

Moment of Truth in Iraq Photography Exhibit

I am very happy to announce the opening of my first photography exhibit.  During my travels I have taken thousands of photos, only a small portion of which have been published.  Some of these images will be on public view for the first time when Picture Perfect Frame Shop in Lakeland, Florida, hosts the Moment of Truth in Iraq Photo Exhibit.  From September 25 to November 8, the gallery will feature forty images which have been specially prepared for this event.  All images will be available for purchase, along with copies of my books Moment of Truth in Iraq and Danger Close. The proceeds will help fund my work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although I will be in Afghanistan, I cordially welcome everybody who can make it.  If you’re in the Central Florida area, please come see the exhibit.  It will really mean a lot to me.

Michael



Picture Perfect Frame Shops, Inc.                           
4525 South Florida Avenue, Suite 28                       
Lakeland, Fl 33813

(863)-644-9951   

 

Exhibit Hours :
Mon, Tue, Wed , + Fri             9am-6pm
Thur                                           9am-8pm
Sat                                             9am-4pm


Grand Opening on September 25 starting at 9:00 a.m.

Whatzis?

24 September 2008
Jalalabad, Afghanistan


The shawal kameez is standard wear for Afghan men.  Since I plan to spend a great deal of time exploring Afghanistan unembedded, I headed into downtown Jalalabad to pick out the material and get fitted by a local tailor.  My Afghan guide and I walked through the markets for nearly two hours.  The only western presence we encountered was when two American OH 58 Kiowa helicopters flew high overhead, and I wondered for a moment if I might know the pilots.

Read more: Whatzis?

French and NATO Intentionally Deceiving the Public


22 September 2008

Afghanistan

NATO and the French military continue to deny that a secret report exists concerning the loss of ten French soldiers last month in Afghanistan.  For the record, I have no intention of publishing any part of the secret report.  Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper heavily cited the report, and I merely confirmed that the report does in fact exist, that the newspaper article accurately reflected the contents of the report, and warned that if NATO and the French military maintained their position that the report was either inaccurate or nonexistent, they might find themselves contradicted by its publication.  More importantly, the document was handed to me with zero expectation that I would keep it secret.  In fact, there seemed to be an expectation that I might publish something, though I did keep it secret, other than to verify the Globe and Mail story.
Below is my original post:

Read more: French and NATO Intentionally Deceiving the Public

Death in the Corn: Part III of III

British 2 Para snipers search for the local “sniper” taking potshots at FOB Gibraltar.

Published: 22 September 2008

Living with British troops of 2 Para at FOB Gibraltar and watching them fight, I witnessed one of the great paradoxes of Afghanistan. The troops are fighting hard and killing the enemy. They are professional and extremely competent. Their morale is high. They are doing a great job. And we are losing the war.

Their troubles with a local sniper demonstrate some of the complexities and frustrations of this war, which the British public don’t even call a “war.” The British soldiers know this is a real war, but the British at home characterize it as a “conflict.” Meanwhile, Americans at home seem to mostly have forgotten about Afghanistan, though luckily they are starting to wake up. Yet it’s obvious here on the ground that this situation could deteriorate into something far worse than we ever saw in Iraq.

Read more: Death in the Corn: Part III of III

Totally Wrong?

21 September 2008

Yesterday (20 September 2008), I linked an article in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail concerning the Taliban ambush of French troops in Afghanistan on August 18.  The article was based on a secret report that I have read very carefully.  The Globe and Mail article described the contents of the report accurately.

Read more: Totally Wrong?

Secret Report detailing French deaths in Afghanistan

20 September 2008

I was able to carefully read the secret NATO/ISAF report cited in this news story, which does a good job of reporting the facts in the report.   Photographs published in the report showed very accurate fire on vehicles, which supports the claim that the Taliban are becoming more proficient with their small arms fire.  The document also indicated that the Taliban had used armor piercing bullets in the ambush.  The French soldiers were completely unprepared for this level of combat.  Apparently, the survivors were rescued by American forces, including "Green Berets" who were nearby.

Michael

Read more: Secret Report detailing French deaths in Afghanistan

Death in the Corn: Part II of III

Published: 17 September 2008

The ambush was set, but “Terry” Taliban didn’t step into it. The most successful hunters are not the ones who bag something every time, but the ones who hunt all the time, and 2 Para has been hunting the most dangerous prey. The soldiers of C-co 2 Para are not sure how many they’ve killed in the past five months, but the estimates are around 200, and during the days I spent with them, their average daily kill would put them well over that number.

Moving out of our ambush position, we set off from the ANA (Afghan National Army) compound to “tab” (walk) back to Gib, watching every step. While a soldier with a metal detector swept a skinny path ahead, other soldiers scanned the flanks, simultaneously trying to step in the prints just laid. The soldiers watched not only for ambush and mines and other bombs, but for “dickers.” Dicker is a British term derived from the war in Northern Ireland, where the enemy had a simple but effective system of look-outs to track British patrols and activities.

Read more: Death in the Corn: Part II of III

Death in the Corn: Part I of III

Published: 15 September 2008
Helmand Province, Afghanistan

FOB Gibraltar: made from an abandoned farmer’s compound.

The soldiers are living like animals at a little rat’s nest called FOB Gibraltar. They call it “Gib.” Named after the lynchpin of British naval dominance in the Mediterranean, this cluster of mud huts in the middle of hostile territory is more like Fort Apache, Afghanistan. The British soldiers from C-Company 2 Para live in ugly conditions, fight just about every day, and morale is the best I have seen probably anywhere.

Read more: Death in the Corn: Part I of III

General David Petraeus warns of long struggle ahead for US in Iraq

11 September 2008
 
Always important to listen to General Petraeus: He tells the good, bad and the ugly:

Read more: General David Petraeus warns of long struggle ahead for US in Iraq

Top Military Officer Urges Major Change in Afghanistan Strategy

11 September 2008

During the Spring of 2006, it was painfully obvious that Afghanistan was spiraling into a black hole.  I couldn't have written it more clearly at that time.  Many readers vowed never to read this site again.  Yet today, on this 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the situation is immeasurably worse.  At the going rate, we will lose the war in Afghanistan.

Michael


Read more: Top Military Officer Urges Major Change in Afghanistan Strategy

Correction and Update: "Where Eagles Dare"

09 September 2008

Correction and update: In the dispatch “Where Eagles Dare,” I wrote that General Dan McNeill was the overall commander in Afghanistan.  This is incorrect: General Dan McNeill was the previous Commanding General but has since rotated out.  I was originally told by a military officer that General McNeill had ordered the mission, but was told today that General David McKiernan, now the CG, gave final approval.  In any case, it was a tremendous success.

Read more: Correction and Update: "Where Eagles Dare"

Where Eagles Dare

9 September 2008
Helmand Province, Afghanistan

When I was briefed on the top-secret mission before it was launched, I thought : “Good grief.  I might have to report on the failure of one of the largest and most important missions of the entire war.”

After seven years, the war in Afghanistan has morphed from a breathtaking expedition of a handful of special operators—often on horseback—to a sort of lethal day-to-day business.   Morale is high among American, Aussie, British and Canadian soldiers.  Dozens of other nations are contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, including the French, Italians and Estonians, but I have not seen enough of them to be able to judge their morale.  The French recently lost ten soldiers in a Taliban ambush, and many in that country are talking about pulling out, although President Nicolas Sarkozy is standing firm.  Other countries, like Germany, have strict rules of engagement that essentially preclude them from joining in combat.  The Poles and Danes are strong allies and good soldiers, as they were in Iraq.   Yet the bulk of the fighting against the Taliban is done by the Anglosphere (U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia), and, of course, the Afghans.

Read more: Where Eagles Dare

Af-Pak war continues to escalate

Helmand Province, Afghanistan
05 Sep 2008

 
The Af-Pak war continues to escalate.  Morale among American, Aussie, British and Canadian forces is high.  I cannot comment on others; to date, I have not been interfacing much with other member nations.  There is no doubt that the war is escalating, but our folks are meeting it head on:  Click here to view article in the Washington Post.

At this rate, 2009 will be the hardest year so far.

Read more: Af-Pak war continues to escalate

"Many Taliban Dead"

03 Sept 2008
0910 est

 

Michael has no internet but called on sat phone.

British 2 Para in Helmand provence have been reapeatedlyand successfully closing with and engaging the Taliban. In ongoing operations today a number of British paratroopers lured Taliban into an attack. British forces responded with machine guns, small arms, shoulder fired rockets, mortars, and a 500 lb bomb. Locals say "Many Taliban dead."

More Later...

 

Read more: "Many Taliban Dead"

Hurricane Afghanistan

28 August 2008
Michael Yon

The long journey back to Afghanistan is complete.  Starting in the mountains of Nepal, with several days’ walk to Pokhara, then a long drive to Kathmandu, a flight to Bangkok where I bought some combat gear (my regular gear is in Iraq and Washington), then to Dubai, and a circuitous journey from India and finally Kabul, where I landed several days ago.  I hired a taxi to the British Embassy, passing horse-drawn carts, vendors selling sunglasses, and old men who looked older than time.  The streets of Kabul are not war-ravaged like Baghdad, but the fact that there is a war on is unmistakable.  The weather was clear, bright and cool, and Afghan and foreign troops were all about, armored convoys could be seen.  After a meeting at the British Embassy, I asked for a taxi to the Serena Hotel, but one of the Afghans working the embassy gate suggested there was a kidnapping threat if I took a random taxi.  Since I do not have a private car, taxi it was, through the Kabul traffic where kids begged for bakseesh at intersections and the horse-drawn carts clopped by.

Read more: Hurricane Afghanistan

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