Michael's Dispatches

Dead Taliban in Chora

93 Comments

(A raw, unedited note from war.)

dead-talibanimg_9436Men lining up to pay respects to killed Taliban

27 February 2011

The places have names like Sangin, Arghandab, Panjwai, Now Zad, Musa Qala, Korengal Valley, Pech Valley, Tarin Kot, or Chora.  Names that mean almost nothing to most people, but everything to others.  British, American, Dutch, Canadian, Australian, and others from far and wide, have fought and died in these places. Some lost arms, legs, eyes, their buddies, and sometimes their sanity, on these battlefields.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been at war here almost ten years.  And so I am continuing a long tour of Afghanistan to discover what is going on here.

Today, I accompanied members of Central Asia Development Group (CADG).  We drove from the town of Tarin Kot to the violent village of Chora.  A quick web search for Chora will reveal countless articles about the heavy fighting.  We took an extremely dangerous stretch of road.  We saw nary a soldier, though I am told many have died here.  Leonard Grami, the Urozgan Provincial Manager for CADG, reckons well over a hundred troops and Afghans have died on this stretch in the last 14 months, including some last week and last night.

Somehow we made it to Chora and saw that the USAID project seems to be doing fine, but while the managers checked the work, Afghan authorities dumped the body of a Taliban killed last night in nearby in fighting.  They dumped him at a “traffic circle” underneath what they call “the steeple.”  Men and boys flocked to the body and were so tight around him that they must have been almost stepping on him.  When we arrived, they pulled back for a moment, and I made a panorama of these dangerous men.  Danger was thick in the air so we did not stay long, and then we headed back across the desert to Tarin Kot.

Please take time to examine this panorama by scrolling around and using the controls or mouse to zoom in and out.  Look at the faces of these men, and you’ll see the faces of Taliban.

 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Rotramel · 7 years ago
    The locals do not look very friendly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matt · 7 years ago
    Mike, fantastic photo and I have a question here. What was the mood in the crowd towards this dead Taliban? Did they know him? Were they mad and want revenge for his death? Thanks for all you do.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael · 7 years ago
    Well, there you go. That guy is the only one wearing sneakers in that whole photo. Besides the kid with the pink gumboots, he's the odd one out.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 7 years ago
    Matt,

    Hostile. Tensions were serious. I could feel the electricity snapping in that crowd. Some clearly were there paying respects. Others I do not know.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dave · 7 years ago
    Michael, would be good idea for you to examine that panorama photo again. On right-hand side there is a guy that appears to be deliberately shielding his face from the camera.

    Might be time for our face recognition people to go to work, if they have enough to examine.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there again. Stay safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    gail · 7 years ago
    michael
    you be carefull out there. you have walked through the gates of hell.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Susan Anganes · 7 years ago
    The faces of the young boys! Many look about the ages of my youngest two sons (twelve and ten). What their eyes have witnessed,I do not want to know.

    Incredible picture.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leyla · 7 years ago
    Wow if a photo could tell a thousand words this one would be a best seller!

    Stay Safe!

    Leyla
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barb · 7 years ago
    Those are some frightening images to zoom in on, these men and boys. It's hard to know your enemy. Their faces, up close as I panned your entire photo made me feel like I'd gone over to the dark side briefly... And they're not serving cookies over there. Whew. These are the boogy men; especially the ones hiding their identity, guns under the cloaks. If looks could kill, eh? Excellent photos as always, but when you feel electricity snapping where there is none, it's go time. Please stay safe and keep your instincts sharpened. I'd feel better if you were embedded with some Marines. What's up with so many of these Afghanis (Taliban?) having the same abnormality of the eyes? CHILLS~
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan · 7 years ago
    Mike, What was the crowds attitude toward you? And you taking pictures? Did any of them approach you?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jon · 7 years ago
    Wow. Of the two armed men I saw, both had red cloths (one tied on rifle, one tied on arm)--any significance to this Michael? Good guys/police? Can't imagine the taliban having this sort of identifiable uniform.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    C. Ochsner · 7 years ago
    Dear Michael,
    You takes extremely high risks at the time. When I read your notes, watch on your pictures I realize that that is the way to go. You make the difference. Like our troops out there. I know you good enough, that I can be sure, that you choose your words with respect, without sensation greed and your pictures are that, how a former Special Former has see it. Thank you for the risk you take, for your personal sacrifice and your outstanding brave, like I know it from Iraq. Take good care of you and watch your 6! Looking forward .....Claudia
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Soldier · 7 years ago
    I'm nearby at the moment, nice of you to make the trip as media attention is pretty much non existant around here. Chora itself is relatively quiet, you should have come a little further down the valley to where the real war is. 8)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    G8R62 · 7 years ago
    Photo I received is cropped at left edge of wooden box next to some fruit. Nine people visible.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Penny · 7 years ago
    What a powerful photo. Thank you for taking it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael · 7 years ago
    You also notice how both of the men with weapons have the same style vest on (the one with three buckles) underneath their outer vest... And you would be surprised at what the Taliban would use to identify themselves with; one area they would use a plain white piece of cloth with red writing on it and fly it like a flag at their house or in a graveyard or places like that to signify them being Taliban-friendly locations. Frustrating, almost taunting you like that, but they get pissed off when you steal their flag. :-)

    Anyway, keep up the good work, Michael, and stay safe. That picture invokes strong feelings, especially for those of us who have been there before--yet again, another good picture!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sandra · 7 years ago
    Amazing photo. The guy with the gun in the foreground. Official, regular guy or Taliban or maybe both? It was obvious they were aware of your shooting photos as several covered their faces. You guys sure are getting the once over.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    bugsthefarmdog · 7 years ago
    Please notice there are no women in the photo. I am a woman libber by any stretch, but in cultures where women are hidden and kept silent, you will find a society of primitive values.

    Until women play a role in Afghan society, we will not see any progress towards it being a true civilization, and that's a shame.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    bugsthefarmdog · 7 years ago
    Typing fail. Make that "...I am NOT a women's libber by any stretch...."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 7 years ago
    Note: the red banded fellas were with us. That was our security. Needless to say, we were WAY outnumbered so we didn't stay long.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Taliban Country · 7 years ago
    That one picture captures the problem in Afghanistan. Who the heck can you trust? No organization, no common beliefs, a bunch of savages living in the stone age. One of the best pictures I've seen in my life.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Deborah Francis · 7 years ago
    Mine appeared cropped as well.... Saw no one with weapons nor one with face covered, etc. Wonder if image has been changed for security...???
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Deborah Francis · 7 years ago
    Mine appears cropped as well with just a few men and boys... Has the image been changed? For security?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 7 years ago
    No changes have been made to the images. Zero, in fact. That's straight from the camera and into the Gigapan stitching software. That software blended the 19 photos into one image.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Deborah Francis · 7 years ago
    Got the "pan" thing figured out...Ooops... :oops:
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Susan Anganes · 7 years ago
    Click on the link "panorama" in the text to see the whole photo.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Osborne · 7 years ago
    Picture properties states the size is 167 megs...big enough for a panoramic photo, but it doesn't display that way. I can see the edge of a box (coffin?) and some fruit and 8 faces. Same results with Firefox and IE. No idea what's wrong.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dennis · 7 years ago
    The only way to "win" in a place like that is to give the population cause to be more afraid of you than they are of the Taliban. Inasmuch as this goes against basic American (and western)principals the only option remaining is to get the hell out of there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon writer · 7 years ago
    Jeff,

    Please send me your email address and I will take care of it myself. NONE OF YOUR COMMENTS HAVE BEEN DELETED.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Osborne · 7 years ago
    Well, I followed the link on Facebook and the panoramic view works there, but not when I follow it from my email...go figure.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Shukri · 7 years ago
    It's like what the soldier said about the US army retreat from Pech:

    “What we figured out is that people in the Pech really aren’t anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone,” “Our presence is what’s destabilizing this area.” - http://nyti.ms/f98C8p
  • This commment is unpublished.
    michael wilson · 7 years ago
    god Bless You- also I am still waiting for my book-- if it is in print yet-- have printed copy of paid bill-- keep safe- keyalaska@windstream.net friend in Ft White, Fl great to follow you again stay safe mike wilson
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ken Flauding · 7 years ago
    Hi Michael:
    Same as Jeff here. I paid for an autographed copy ofthe prepaid book when you first announced it. I know you're good for it, so not sweating here.

    As far as the photo: WOW! That pic is one of the best I've ever seen. One thing that is very striking is the absence of women and girls. Not one.
    These men are at war with us, no doubt. I'm glad you were able to get out with your head.

    Let me know about the bood my friend. It will be worth the wait.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jeff Coder · 7 years ago
    We do not learn from our past mistakes or our history. This is so much Vietnam deja-vu!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Adam V · 7 years ago
    Amazing photo. These gigapans really give you a feel for the place that a normal photo cannot.

    As for the book, which I also ordered, don't sweat it. Delays are inevitable, especially when you're on the other side of the world doing amazing work, work we get to experience for free.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David Schultz · 7 years ago
    Michael, used to be the Taliban could be picked out because they were the ones wearing shoes. Does that still hold true?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter Olney · 7 years ago
    Amazing and frightening work, Michael. Thank you! If one could only know their thoughts... or maybe it's just as well that we don't, except that in many cases we're looking at our foe.
    Keep up the excellent work!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve · 7 years ago
    ...with the bicycle and the flowers...must be man love Thursday...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robert Burrichter · 7 years ago
    I found the footwear interesting... As you have mentioned in the past the enemy wears running shoes as does the dead man. If one looks at the footwear of those assembled one can see others shod with similar shoes. Does this mean his comrades are in the crowd???
  • This commment is unpublished.
    youtwo1 · 7 years ago
    looks like a neighborhood near me in Michigan. Same looks on their faces and some of the same clothing. Sad to see these kids experiencing such an atrocity.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Caleb · 7 years ago
    Michael, you stay safe! I enjoy reading your dispatches and seeing your photo's. The panoramic view is unforgettably awesome. Stay alert! :-*
  • This commment is unpublished.
    take me to the river · 7 years ago
    I count two smoking cigarettes, possibly three. Is that an open trait of the Taliban? Perhaps these are Taliban, but not by habit. It is difficult to tell from a photo how many are affiliated and how many are not.

    I take it you did not have the opportunity to ask if the recently deceased was from the village. Still a haunting image.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 7 years ago
    Running shoes: The excellent British tracking school in Brunei, which I attended, specifically cautions to watch for running shoes in Afghanistan. Former Marine officer Tim Lynch, a long time Afghanistan hand, cautioned me the same several years ago.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 7 years ago
    One of the first questions I asked about the deceased was who he is and where is he from. An Afghan military translator told me he is from the next village over (which could explain why some people clearly were paying respects). The Afghan also said the man was trained in Pakistan. He said they know this because they have some Taliban from the same area in their prison.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eric · 7 years ago
    Incredible panorama from a war. It does show what our soldiers are up against...an enemy that blends in with the population.

    I can't believe that you have to deal with customer service issues about your book. I think that the majority of us that ordered the book understand about delays and that you are a little busy.

    Keep up the great work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John - Capt in ANG · 7 years ago
    Having spent a year there, I'd say the Western shoes (or any real footwear) is an easy tipoff. The dirt there is nasty and it'd trash any shoes worth anything. I bought Zoots (triathlon) shoes specifically because I could hose them off after outdoor runs).

    I couldn't get a pan either with Firefox or Safari. I'll try with IE at work tomorrow.

    I think people have to realize there's no "Against Us or For us," as well as the fact Vietnam never send a dozen people who did billions of damage. Afghanistan is Afghanistan. It's not Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia, Balkans or a litany of other places where we've (the West) been at war.

    It's possible I'll be heading back next month for another year. Hopefully our southern push sets up for a better spring than last year.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 7 years ago
    The pano link:

    http://gigapan.org/gigapans/fullscreen/71603/
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hispeed · 7 years ago
    Dammit! It's blocked on NIPR.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Neil · 7 years ago
    What do the different styles of headwear signify? Looks like a very dangerous place for anyone from the west. It'll take 30 years or more to move these people forward, is this really the best utilization of our limited resources?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Cass · 7 years ago
    My same question was deleted. You have my email.

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