Michael's Dispatches

Afghanistan Update: Taliban Losing on Battlefield, But Making Progress in Media War


22 September 2011

Description from Glenn Reynolds: Want some good news? Our troops are fighting and winning in Afghanistan. Combat journalist Michael Yon calls Glenn Reynolds from the "Birthplace of the Taliban" to report on military action in Afghanistan. Our troops are meeting tough resistance in some regions, but are succeeding notwithstanding the challenges.

Quote: "Something needs to be done about these medivac helicopters not having large weapons." -- Michael Yon


Or you can click here to view the video interview at PJTV.

If the above link does not work please try this alternate link.


# Mike 2011-09-22 13:03
I worked with the rotor-winged aviation task force out of Bagram in '08/'09. Prior to the buildup of forces including aviation assets in the Wardak/Logar AO in '09, their medevac ran through us in Bagram.

I remember one particular night a young luitenant who should have lived had bled out while our bird waited for ~30 min on the ground in Bagram for an Apache to return from another mission. The Apache of course then had to refuel. This, before it made the 40 minute flight to the secure LZ to pick this soldier up.

Of course neither this nor the case you spoke of was the crews' choice. They're borderline crazy on the things they'll attempt to help the kid with the rifle on the ground and those stories are countless. But as it goes, "rules are rules." This is the last place needing even an inch of red tape.
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# Kate 2011-09-22 13:55
Just listened to your brief interview with Glenn Reynolds. I want to thank you so much for being there, continuing to cover the war, and advocating for the needs of the troops. This is the first time I've ever publicly appreciated anyone's effort in the Afghanistan or Iraq wars. I feel so lucky to be so safe in this quiet, little suburb of Boston. Pass on my gratitude if you would.
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# Daniel Gower 2011-09-22 14:40
As always the highly charged issue of launch time, waiting for "guns" and the loss of life is at stake here. DUSTOFF guys will go where others are told not to go - at the risk of their own lives - and one can't know the gut wrenching frustration of these brave DUSTOFF Warriors as they wait on the pad for an Apache to be readied - adding "offensive weapons" to our aircraft is not the solution - better response times by the supporting aviation assets IS the answer. Mike, having spent some time as an embed reporter with DUSTOFF and being a retired MSC Aviator - I salute you and your reporting. Keep those "legs under you" and "stay strong" - Dan
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# Catamomma 2011-09-22 16:13
[quote name="Mike"] "Wardak/Logar AO in '09,"
Michael, I would assume you would remember the Spartan soldiers in that AO in 09, and who was in the Tangi at the time, of course it was no secret. I wonder how you feel about the abandonment of places like the Tangi, considering recent events in the area? I know how the men that fought there feel, Wardak/Tangi was no joke. The soldiers that were dropped in there with nothing, and had to build from scratch. After finding out all their hard work went to the Taliban, my Facebook lit up with a miriad of sadness and inadequacy, as they watched a year of their lives,and death of a friend go for naught. I respect the work you are doing, I am one of the few spouses that want to know what is going on... Although 4-4 Cav isn't my unit, you still talk of the region as a whole. This is the most up to date source I have. And if I can ever spare the bucks, I'll be sending some your way!Thank you for all you are doing to bring the reality to light.
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# Joe Blow 2011-09-22 16:16
Are the Taliban firing on dustoffs? If so, arm 'em. Interpreting treaties is often about reciprocal duties and proportionality , and if they make a practice of violating the Geneva Conventions, then there's no reason to continue a pacifist policy in the face of their AA fired.
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# Mike 2011-09-22 16:31
I posted the first comment above and I'm a veteran who follows Yon. I don't mean to confuse anyone that I was Michael Yon himself, posting. He's surely a badder man than I :-)

On another note touching on what Mr. Gower said, there's not a perfect solution that exists in my opinion. In a perfect world we have the assets to provide a pink team to every convoy and every flight heading out. This simply isn't achievable unfortunately.
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# Catamomma 2011-09-22 16:35
Heh' no worries, none the less... you would have remembered... and I can still thank you for what you did... and I assume you have an opinion as well. Whether you are Michael or Mike... you at least have an opinion... but I probably wont be sending you bucks anytime soon Mike... :D
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# Mike 2011-09-22 16:40

If you can, take solace in the fact that nearly every single night, incredibly skilled warriors are flying into those places and "mowing the grass." Similar efforts have changed in other places such as Kunar. I don't try too hard to make sense of it as I'm simply not as smart as the strategists at the top like Petraeus et al. I just trust they have learned important lessons and are acting on them.

I also want to point out I wasn't posting as Michael Yon himself, just a fellow follower of him.
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# Catamomma 2011-09-22 16:45
Oh I know you aren't Mr. Yon, hence the witty title... heh'. For me it was frustrating, for them, much more than that... As sad as that is, there is not much anyone can do about it. I am sure that they would be happy to know that, and I will pass it along... But I always wonder what other people think... guess that is how I can remain objective... knowledge is power... no?
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# Mike 2011-09-22 16:50
Not a problem. I do want to thank you for your family's sacrifice and your husband's amazing work. I had seen it first hand in '09 and now Michael is showing Spartan's abilities to anyone who will listen today.
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# Catamomma 2011-09-22 16:58
They are an incredible group of soldiers, granted Drum is all I know, so I have no one to compare it to. I have seen a lot of these "guys" go from being "boys", to actual "men." It is calming to know that these people have my husbands back... I have yet to hear from him about the helicopter situation, but it doesn't surprise me... Our resources, at least presumably, dwindling. Without national support, and majority apathy to the wars, I don't see that changing anytime soon. High risk jobs nobody wants to take, and even though they are dangerously low in people to fill the positions, they do the best they can. I have much love for the men and women that fly the birds, and the Geneava Convention Rules do not help the situation, Afghanistan has no combat rules, except one, "kill them all, drive them out." Harsh reality I know but one that needs to be swallowed. Thank you for your kind words, but here we to what we got to do, not just because we have to, but because we want to....
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# Mary 2011-09-22 20:05
I just watched the PJTV video. I could feel your anger and helplessness of it all at the loss of your friend and solder. I am sorry. I find myself extemely frustrated at how long it took for help to arrive and the what ifs involved because of it. These are things I don't hear about and I am sure there are many more instances of this. Thank you for your blog and for keeping it real for me. It's getting pretty weird on this side of the world. UN etc... :sigh:: Be safe my friend.
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# sinanju 2011-09-23 02:35
Michael, I remember how you reported the surge in Iraq when everyone else was predicting doom. I hope this is something similar. But Afghanistan is the stone age by comparison. I'm glad to hear we're beating them militarily, but a few good media-savvy bombings in Kabul can outweigh enormous slow-but-steady progress in the field, especially what with the silly season starting to gear up back here and the Dems and Ron Paulites ritually repeating that all we have to do is bring the troops back home, defund the military (and abandon Israel, of course), and our economic troubles will magically be over plus the Islamists will love us.

All the military success will avail us nothing if the Afghan government, army and police remain abjectly corrupt and dysfunctional. I don't recall you ever having a good word to say for them.

Recalling what Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap said to the American Colonel: "We knew we couldn't beat you, we just had to outlast you."
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# sinanju 2011-09-23 02:36
Sorry to hear your tip jar is drying up, these are lean times. I'd sure hate to think of you having to go home and take a day job at the Times-Picayune. ..
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# Bronco46 2011-09-23 18:28
We had this same problem in Viet Nam. I hoped we'd learn that that red cross is not respected; and we should not bother with having them on these aircraft. It's not fair to the men that fly on this aircraft to ask them to fly into firefights to pull out wounded with no ability to defend themselves, if they are fired on.
Armed helicopters do much better extracting casualties. Let's just skip the pretext and stop serving aircraft and the men that serve on them as targets.
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# Bronco46 2011-09-23 18:38
I was a medic during our excursion in Viet Nam; and the Dust Off mission was brave and honorable one. But we should have stopped asking men to fly unarmed birds into fire fights in 1965. Our enemies didn't respect it then; and they don't now. Take that damn red cross off and replace it with a mini-gun, or .50 cal. We need to protect our own men and drop the pretext. Make it safe, and help make sure our wooded get evacuated in a timely manner.
We have this same problem in our inner cities. Paramedics won't (and shouldn't have to) go into a scene until the cops secure it. Many of the emergency vehicles in Detroit have repaired bullet holes in them from the less civilized citizens of the city.
Put guns on the birds and drop the red crosses. And give our paramedics in the inner cities better protection.
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# Bronco46 2011-09-23 18:43
The mission needs to be renamed. Dust Off has been an honorable attempt at respecting international law. But it not fair to constrain the men who fly this mission. Change the name and the doctrine so these men do their jobs with a better chance of getting the casualty out, and protect themselves.
Retire Dust Off.
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# rob 2011-09-24 14:55
Micheal, I'm not sure why the Dustoff's are not armed like the Pedros up in Bagram? "The HH-60,s" But, would it be possible for you to get up to Bagram to do a story on the PaveHawks to give your readers a different perspective of doing CSAR with an airframe very well armed?
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# Tim 2011-09-25 15:00
Search in dispatches for "the Pedros"... Michael's story from a while back is still a great one that I often recommend.
"that others may live"
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# brad 2011-10-10 13:21
Being a medical officer for the last 12yrs the arguemet about arming medical units has gone round and round. The question is the geneva convention. My arguement is twofold. 1. it is not the weapon, it is how it is used. If I use that SAW to protect a medical unit, it's personnel, and it's patients, that is ok. If I use the SAW to assault that enemy bunker, then that is a different story. Arguement #2 is that you do NOT violate the Geneva Convention if you arm medical units/vehicles/ personnel. You only give up your protection under the articles (both protection from attack and protected status if you are captured by the enemy.) If we are fighting Australia or Great Brittain, then I say follow it. Otherwise, forget that stupid sillyness. I will trade my "protected status" for the ability to protect myself and my patients any day. Especially when "protected status" means absolutely nothing in GWOT.
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# Brad 2011-10-10 13:24
I would also like to add that Commanders can choose to not mark medical units/vehicles. I would also like to add that the Army Medical Department doesn't exactly agree with my arguements listed above.
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# Retired USMC helo Pilot 2011-10-20 12:15
This is not Europe's Fulda Gap.

Re-designate MEDEVAC as CASEVAC Crews/helos, remove the red cross and arm the transports. Simple as that.

Its not like the Taliban follow Law of War anyhow. Then you would have the additional lift assets available for other logistics requirements.
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