Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

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

Teaming up with Soldiers' Angels

02 September 2008

Michael Yon

Over the last nearly four years, I've watched in awe as our men and women in uniform changed the course of history. They have taken defeat and disaster and given us—and the Iraqi people—victory and hope. Their sacrifices for our country are immeasurable.

Now, with your help, we can show our service members that a growing number of Americans do understand and appreciate their sacrifices and accomplishments.

I'm partnering with Soldiers’ Angels to give copies of my book, Moment of Truth in Iraq, to the very soldiers still stationed there.  Soldiers’ Angels is an extraordinary organization. Among many other activities in support of America’s military men and women and their families, Soldiers’ Angels sends thousands of care packages to deployed personnel every month.  Moment of Truth in Iraq will now be included in as many of those packages as possible.

Read more: Teaming up with Soldiers' Angels

No Victory Dances

23 August 2008

I hope to land in Afghanistan tomorrow, but as for tonight, I'm stuck in a hotel reading everything I can devour on Iraq and Afghanistan. An interesting interview with General Petraeus surfaced. General Petraeus has always been objective in his communications with me. I see in this Newsweek exclusive, that General Petraeus is again dampening expectations. I've seen him do it over and over. Now isn't that amazing? An American General who actually makes it a point to dampen press enthusiasm. But while delivering the raw truth, General Petraeus gains enormous credibility with journalists, who then reach untold millions of people. I remember stepping off his helicopter one night before he roared away into the Iraqi night. Just before I took off the headset and unbuckled my seat belt, General Petraeus said something like, "No Victory Dances." I stepped out and his darkened helicopter disappeared into the night, nearly knocking me over with the rotor wash. General Petraeus has enormous press credibility because he delivers the good, the bad and the ugly.

Now for General Petraeus:

Read more: No Victory Dances

Af-Pak Reporting

19 August 2008

Michael Yon

By now, no credible person denies the dramatic success that continues to manifest itself in Iraq. No doubt, there will be years of political dramas ahead for that country, and when they occur, we will blame ourselves for them, as is our habit. Americans have a tendency to blame ourselves nearly everything from wildfires to genocidal wars on the other side of the globe. And what we don't blame ourselves for, others will. Some might see our ability to take initiative and shoulder responsibility as naiveté. I think it's one of America's greatest strengths.

Many people around the world see America in decline. As someone who travels a great deal, I see the opposite. America is just getting started. Yes, we face enormous challenges and dangerous enemies. But the soul of our country, the initiative of our people, and the depth of the collective intelligence are all far stronger than our critics, and even many Americans, imagine. Al Qaeda thought that America would fall to her knees after 9/11. They were wrong. Today we hunt them like jackals.

Read more: Af-Pak Reporting

Update

24 July 2008

I am currently in Nepal trekking in the Himalaya for a month or two, getting in shape for Afghanistan. The monsoon rains leave the trails mostly empty, and my lower legs covered with leeches. Rubbing salt and tobacco can help, but the streams and rains simply wash that away after a short time, and so by the end of the day, my socks are often soaked with blood. When I rinse the socks, the water is crimson with blood. But the leeches don't hurt or cause illness.

Read more: Update

Success in Iraq

14 July 2008

The war continues to abate in Iraq. Violence is still present, but, of course, Iraq was a relatively violent place long before Coalition forces moved in. I would go so far as to say that barring any major and unexpected developments (like an Israeli air strike on Iran and the retaliations that would follow), a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended. A new and better nation is growing legs. What's left is messy politics that likely will be punctuated by low-level violence and the occasional spectacular attack. Yet, the will of the Iraqi people has changed, and the Iraqi military has dramatically improved, so those spectacular attacks are diminishing along with the regular violence. Now it's time to rebuild the country, and create a pluralistic, stable and peaceful Iraq. That will be long, hard work. But by my estimation, the Iraq War is over. We won. Which means the Iraqi people won.

Read more: Success in Iraq

A Great American

13 July 2008

The news came to me in Nepal that Tony Snow had died. The words came with a jolt followed by sorrow. The best that can be said about any American is that he died in service to the people of the United States of America, and to our friends beyond our borders. Tony Snow did just that. Though Tony must have been in pain, his correspondence to me was always upbeat and positive and wise. The President chose well with Tony. He will be missed, but his service will be felt. Tony Snow was a Great American, whose spirit is stronger now than ever before.

 

The River - Part II

 

The Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, with the location where each photograph in this dispatch was taken.  Red marks the path of the journey.

 

“It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body curving at rest afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land.”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness


Journey Into Darkness

July 2008

There were informers everywhere. In the hotels, in the restaurants, near the docks and on the river. And so, in addition to the natural dangers of the journey, there were the dangers of the military junta.

The team would consist of eight people: seven Burmese and one American. I was supposed to be part of the team, but was stuck in Thailand after having been refused a visa.

At the arranged time, on 10 June, the first coded message pinged out from the American, whom I will call Charlie Marlow. "Charlie" was in Yangon when he sent the message to "Translator", who contacted "Manager", who contacted "Cook", as well as the four other crew members. At about 10:30 p.m., all had assembled in the darkness on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. The Burmese Navy was patrolling the Irrawaddy further downstream, and a number of foreign journalists had been recently deported after broadcasting embarrassing stories from the delta. There were stern warnings to the locals not to facilitate entry or movement of foreigners to the region. There was talk that the military had stationed at least one soldier in nearly every village to report on any contact with outsiders.

Read more: The River - Part II

On Joe Galloway

26 June 2008

I read Joe Galloway’s columns and often disagree with him. But Joe usually makes points that deserve consideration. Joe is not weak or weak-minded; I’ve told him to his face that he’s a mean old man. But I respect Joe. He has fought in pitched combat side-by-side with our troops. Joe thinks we’re losing the Iraq War and I believe we’re winning. Even though we disagree about Iraq, Joe and I both believe that torture is wrong.

Read more: On Joe Galloway

The River

Journey into Darkness

Part I of II

 

 

 

One man’s devil is another man’s demon

 

June 2008

Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore

Cyclone Nargis was born over the Bay of Bengal on April 27, 2008. Just five days later it swept through Myanmar. The military rulers of Myanmar estimate that some 134,000 people are dead or missing, while others believe the numbers to be much higher. Due to the secretive policies of the regime, the world may never know the extent of damage and loss of life caused by the cyclone.

Not only has the junta kept the truth from its own people and the rest of the world, they also turned back nearly all foreign aid and restricted media access. The silence of its reclusive and mysterious leader Senior General Than Schwe was sickening. A stunned international community was poised to respond with significant aid resources if the junta would just open their country to the outside world. Instead, the generals demonstrated that maintaining power, and perhaps just saving face, was more important to them than anything, even their own people’s lives.

Read more: The River

Return to Action

Some updates:

I have left the United States and am heading back to the war.

Heavy promotion of Moment of Truth in Iraq is over. I conducted approximately 100 radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews, therefore was unable to do much more than track the war from afar. There are more radio interviews scheduled, but I’ll be talking from downrange. Moment of Truth in Iraq hit #6 on the Amazon bestseller list, and #2 on Barnes and Noble, which greatly surprised me.

Read more: Return to Action

Townhall

An important new magazine called Townhall is making an incredible offer. For just $34.95, you get 12 months of Townhall plus a FREE copy of Moment of Truth in Iraq (while supplies last; the books are going fast). Click here to subscribe to Townhall and receive a free copy of my book Please make sure to at least look at the current issue of Townhall magazine, which is hitting newsstands this week. I wrote the cover story about our incredible progress in Iraq.

An Open Offer to U.S. Senators

One of the biggest problems with the Iraq War is that politics has frequently triumphed over truth. For instance, we went into Iraq with shoddy intelligence (at best), no reconstruction plan, and perhaps half as many troops as were required. We refused to admit that an insurgency was growing, until the country collapsed into anarchy and civil war. Now the truth is that Iraq is showing real progress on many fronts: Al Qaeda is being defeated and violence is down and continuing to decrease. As a result, the militias have lost their reason for existence and are getting beaten back or co-opted. Shia, Sunni and Kurds are coming together -- although with various stresses -- under the national government. If progress continues at this rate, it is very possible that before 2008 is out, we can finally say "the war has ended." Yes, likely there still will be some American casualties, but if the violence continues to drop and the Iraqi government consolidates its gains, we will be able, in good conscience, to begin bringing more of our people home. I will be paying very close attention to the words of Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, who is replacing General Petraeus as the overall commander in Iraq.

Read more: An Open Offer to U.S. Senators

Great Americans: David Leimbach Comes Home

On Memorial Day, I published an email from Command Sergeant Major Jeffrey Mellinger describing the memorial in Afghanistan for Spc David L. Leimbach.

When I published that tribute, I didn't know just how dedicated this Great American was. I've been in communication with a member of David's family who told me that David had done a tour in Afghanistan with the South Carolina National Guard, yet when their tour ended, 120 members of the Guard unit volunteered to stay behind in Afghanistan or go to Iraq. David was one of those soldiers. Please see this article for more: http://www.militarycity.com/valor/3551124.html

Read more: Great Americans: David Leimbach Comes Home

Investigation Launched

The House Committee on Armed Services is investigating claims made by the New York Times. The New York Times claimed that retired Generals were co-opted by the Department of Defense to spread what amounted to propaganda throughout U.S. media to sell the Iraq war. The following letter from General (ret.) Barry R. McCaffrey is in response to a direct inquiry about his actions during this time. I've seen much of General (ret.) McCaffrey's work and it would be difficult to imagine he was part of any propaganda; McCaffrey has been extremely critical about much of the war. I consider him a very reliable source.

Read more: Investigation Launched

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