Michael's Dispatches

The Battle for Kandahar: Part I

FOB Frontenac, Afghanistan
28 March 2010

Under an early morning sky, a red glow is cast from the lights on an Air Force water drilling rig.  A new MATV, or “MRAP All Terrain Vehicle,” is being deployed to Afghanistan to combat homemade bombs, the favorite weapon of the Taliban.

Stryker vehicles of the 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team.  The trace of light is from an unmanned aircraft.

The 1-17th has lost 22 soldiers on this tour but, has inflicted far more on the enemy.  It appears that U.S. forces have gained the initiative in the Arghandab River Valley (ARV).  The ARV is crucial human and physical terrain for the unfolding Battle of Kandahar.

Moon Shadow at Frontenac.  There is relative calm before the spring.

The Battle for Kandahar has begun.  The face of this battle is not one of sudden fury but a process, a complex struggle for legitimacy between local Taliban governance and Kabul rule.

A scent of weakness is in the air.  The Taliban remain deadly and capable – yet they seem to be losing the initiative.  “Shaping Operations” are underway.  Special Operations Forces are picking off and collecting key Taliban leaders.  With our increase in troops, the Taliban must spend more time on self-defence, deducting from their capacity for offensive operations.

This year, 2010, is particularly crucial for the future of Afghanistan.  The fight is on for key physical terrain, politcal terrain, and information dominance.  Before Christmas, we will know who won the Battle for Kandahar.  Who wins this Battle likely will win the war.

 

Comments   

 
# Mark 2010-03-28 05:27
All those stars. Brings back memories of flying over Afghanistan in winter of 2004. The photo of the Strykers under the Milky Way is amazing.
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# Matthew 2010-03-28 05:29
Michael, thank you for continuing to show us what is really happening over there and for bringing us incredible photos like these. We are grateful to be able to know what the soldiers of my brother's battalion are faced with and the things they are doing. Take heart! This deployment is almost over... Thank you all for what you are doing to keep my family and our country safe.
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# Chris Muir 2010-03-28 06:00
That brings back a feeling, it does! Great shots!
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+1 # RE: The Battle for Kandahar: Part IPat Montone 2010-03-28 08:11
Keep puttin' the squeeze on those bastards by continuing the dominance of your AO.
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# Ronnie Gunn Tucker 2010-03-28 08:47
Thank you, Michael.
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# Dan Juan Garza 2010-03-28 08:53
The drug trade is bigger than this war. The war is fini. The players are changing. We are out and don't know it. The Pakis and the Persians are the real players. Karzai has always been nothing more than a figurehead. He'll last another year as a powerless puppet. The U.S. no longer fights for victory.
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# Determined 2010-03-28 08:58
GOD BLESS and stay safe.
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# Susan L. Satterly 2010-03-28 09:09
1/17 Infantry 5/2 Stryker Brigade is my son Zach's unit, he drives stryker.
Thank you for giving them the kudos they deserve.
All our prayers to the families of those who were lost.
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# Barbara & Dan Whipple Kerrville Tx 2010-03-28 09:32
Thank you for putting it in language the average American can understand.
We pray for the safety of all over there, and for a speedy and final solution to this mess so all can come home.
God Bless you and those you report on.
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# Melodee 2010-03-28 09:36
I love the photos. Thank you so much for passing on the news to us. We can't rely on anyone else to do as good a job as you.
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# Michael 2010-03-28 09:41
Spectacular pictures. Just breathtaking. It doesn't even look like it could be on this planet. Thank you for all your work.
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# mike wilson 2010-03-28 09:48
Thanks for the coverage, I am not an Obama Fan, but as our President I am glad he is in Afgan today, He should be. The SURGE should work, He had to admit it worked in Iraq. GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS....
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# Winefred 2010-03-28 10:18
Dan Juan Garza does not indicate that he is in the armed forces fighting at the front, so we cannot know whether he is in as good or better a position than Michael to tell us how the fight is going. If I had to guess, I'd say he's probably a comfortably armchair quarterback. And if so, here's my message, Dan Juan -- You're welcome to your own opinion, but you need to learn discretion about where to broadcast it. Yon may be a civilian, but he's fighting a battle (for truth) on a dangerous front just like our military, deserving of encouragement and gratitude -- your pronouncements about how that battle is pointless and worthless are inappropriate in this forum. I'm a double military Mom (Marines & Navy) and I know all the places I can go to read and hear the nay-sayers. But I wouldn't dream of passing that stuff on in ear-shot of my boys in uniform.
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# Jim Johnson 2010-03-28 11:23
I fought in Viet Nam for 17 months. Given what our current government has done to the Constitution I would never fight for America again.
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# cj gordon 2010-03-28 11:37
Very nice photowork Mr.Yon.You have a wonderful eye. Did your mother not teach you any manners Mr. Garza?
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# mike licavoli 2010-03-28 11:44
Don't forget these people will stab you in the back the moment you turn around. How long will we be diligent?
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# Donnette Davis 2010-03-28 12:14
Beautiful pictures.. as always.... and your commentary and description brings them to life!

I have reposted the links to this dispatch along with a few other posts... something I picked up earlier and so the heading of one of my blog posts is "Michael Yon has moved very close to the status of legend.."
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# Dorothy Roush 2010-03-28 14:17
Fantastic picture as always Michael, first one sees beauty then after realization the erie feeling sets in called reality.Heard so many stories/facts about Nam and how beautiful the skys were.The constellation is twisted from where I see it, then the smell of death and hate fills the air.Then the lenght of time thats passed makes one sick to their stomaches,the losses of innocent lives fighting hate mongers that have no souls is appauling.The silence of that photo screams, the beauty gives hope that this too will pass and as for Freedom its not free never will be, the cost is to high!God Bless Our Troops,support them and get the deed done and bring them home safely to their families and loved ones.I know our next generation is going to have a mess to deal with.....hate will always thrive until its exterminated.
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# Brooks Imperial 2010-03-28 15:23
Just returned from Thailand yesterday....ju st business, nothing dangerous like Mr. Yon sees. I did meet a couple cab drivers who were "red shirt" guys out demonstrating against the current government that they believe was undemocraticall y installed. The Thais do like their monarchy though. Interesting juxtaposition. Anyway, freedom and government by consent motivates their society, as it does America. It is worth fighting for--wherever you find it--and regardless of the corruptions of politicians.
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# Tremendous 2010-03-28 16:34
Once the Bush administration let Bin Laden go, I have never understood what the United States was doing in Afghanistan. I realize that all of it gives Michael Yon a thrill, but that's not enough of a reason. Our presence there is absurd.
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# Craig Moore 2010-03-28 16:59
Michael news coverage of the war in the UK is practically non existent except to say that another soldier has been blown up. Articles like yours are one of the few sources of information available. Keep up the good work. Is real progress being made or are we clearing one area, only for it to be retaken by the enemy the next day when we pull out. In WW2 we took ground and kept it. It was defended from counter attack. In Vietnam many soldiers died clearing an objective of VC. Once the operation was complete the troops went back to camp. The VC then moved back in and had to be cleared out again at the cost of more lives. Is this what is happening in this war? How do you think the war should be conducted?
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# Brad 2010-03-28 17:23
Ma'am,

You are wise and brave; you're the reason more moms should be in charge. Send that guy to stand in the corner and have his little private pity party. Meantime, there's things that need said, so thanks for speaking out. And there's things that need doing, so thanks to Michael Yon for being over there for us. Never underestimate the reach of the influence you and he have. My brother lives in Pakistan doing his regular job, importantly, helping the people forward. Over in Afghanistan too, when possible. He will not come and stay home in the face of danger. I don't have children over there, but I do know a glimpse of how you feel about your Marine and your sailor. Here's something else to say: it is a very good, very positive, very strong thing that there seems to be a little more courtesy, attention, care, and respect for our Commander-in-Ch ief, President of the United States of America, a patriotic citizen like the rest of us. There is certain, righteous power in all of us standing together. The whole world is looking to us, that's for sure.

Respectfully,
Brad
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# John Campbell 2010-03-28 17:39
Tremendous:

You state: "I have never understood what the United States was doing in Afghanistan."

Yet you conclude with: "Our presence there is absurd."

Non-sequitur...?
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# Rosemary Paresa 2010-03-28 19:00
Thank you Michael for the exceptional pictures and the ongoing events.
I am the proud mother of a soldier at Frontenac.
Thank you Micheal for being there and keeping those of us informed.
God Bless our soldiers.
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# Mark, Ex British Army Bomb Disposal 2010-03-29 00:06
The drug trade is bigger than this war. The war is fini. The players are changing. We are out and don't know it. The Pakis and the Persians are the real players. Karzai has always been nothing more than a figurehead. He'll last another year as a powerless puppet. The U.S. no longer fights for victory.


Well Dan Juan, I suppose from your sentiment that you were one of those boys that as a child would pick up his ball and take it home with him just because the game wasn't going his way!!

You need to to remember that the stakes are high when you play on the world stage, pulling out is not an option. We in the west should be standing behind our guys who are at this very moment working in one of the worlds most inhospitable places, Where sleep is a luxury one can only dream of. When are you going to open your eyes to the real issues rather than spouting off some simplified sound bite stolen from a tabloid newspaper.

I myself have spent 22 years of my life fighting for the right for you to hold your opinion, including the second gulf war. All I ever asked is that people like yourself have the self control to know when it is appropriate to voice those views.

Unfortunately though, it is probable that you will remain on your sofa, and will not have the courage of conviction to stand up for your views in the most appropriate manner such as lobbying your government, tis' far easier to air your views here. No doubt your life is full of easy options.

But that they say is between you and your conscience, I for one know that mine is clear, as I Know most of the contributors to this site are.

What say you DAN JUAN?
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# Joseph Meissner 2010-03-29 02:38
Thanks for all of your information. Our troops need someone who really wants to tell the truth.

As for Afghanistan, soemtimes I think we should have left the Russians there. Or perhaps we should have found a way to "partner" with them. The Afghan people are very good people. They deserve better than what the Taliban have done to them. Young girls should not be hurt and killed simply because they want to go to school.

Meanwhile, what can be done about the drug trade? Americans and Europeans are actually the ones who create the demand for the drugs and we are responsible for making this such a profitable business. What Afgan farmer can raise wheat and vegetables for a couple of hundred dollars an acre when that same farmer can make a thousand or two with the poppies? In many ways, all of this is worse than what we faced in Viet Nam forty years ago.

From Joseph Patrick Meissner (LTC-RET), author of "The Green Berets and Their Victories."
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# Pimento 2010-03-29 02:45
Nice work sir. Great photos
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# Dale Schaffner 2010-03-29 05:28
The 1-17th is my son Andrew's unit. He is a M-240 gunner. He takes up the rear hatch position in his Stryker, so is exposed during travel. All the men of the 5/2 SBCT have proven their metal a hundred times over. They need our prayers and have earned our respect. Hooah!
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# William Scott, M.D. 2010-03-29 08:50
I have been to Afghanistan and know these people have long memories for both good and evil. They will never forgive the Russians fro the atrocities they committed, but they will always remember the U.S. for our kindness.
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# Robert 2010-03-29 08:54
why not buy the crop up and let Pharma co's use it to make medication? im sure its more difficult than that, but if you burn thier fields, you make enemies. theres gotta be a way..Godspeed Mike
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# Susan Stanker 2010-03-29 10:34
Thank you for the photo's and stories on the 5-2, 1-17. My son and his brave Brothers died in the ARV at the hands of these cowards so a victory is what I pray for but also the safety of all those soldiers in the 5-2 and 82nd still there fighting for our safety . We need to keep them all in our prayers until their return.
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# Joseph Laidlaw 2010-03-29 10:53
Not only is the photo a wonderful exibit of what we families of these troops wonder about, it is my sons drilling rig supplying the lighting for this photo. Very cool Nate....
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# Larry Cleek 2010-03-29 12:00
Tremendous wrote: Once the Bush administration let Bin Laden go...........

Let go? Are you serious? It is true that OBL did escape due to series of unfortunate circumstances, but only a Lefty or a conspiracy nut would think Bush let him go on purpose.

Brad wrote:

… it is a very good, very positive, very strong thing that there seems to be a little more courtesy, attention, care, and respect for our Commander-in-Ch ief, President of the United States of America, a patriotic citizen like the rest of us.


From my point of view, Obama is not a patriot in the traditional sense. Progressives like him see themselves as world citizens first.

Finally, I want to commend Michael for all the great articles on Afghanistan. My young nephew is with the Marines (B. Co., 2nd AABN, Det. A) that took part in the Marjah operation. He’s due back in the ‘states next month. God Bless all our troops as they go in harm’s way for us.
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-1 # David 2010-03-29 12:21
Come on dumbasses. There is a lot less conspiracy in this world than you would like to believe. "let BL go". Get over yourself. Have you done any research into that operation. If anything they got a little too excited about getting him and dropped the ball. Understandably so given the tough opposition and tough ground and what intel they had to work with. Especially with a border not too far away that at that time was even under control of the country that owned it.

Anyway, great work as usual Michael. Keep it up. You are out eyes and ears on the ground and we than you for it.

Oh and by the way, if we are not there fighting them now, they will be here fighting our children in years to come. Anyone with an ounce of research skills would know that. Just google "caliphate" and the "islamic twelvers", the sect of Islam that AQ and Ahmoud Amadinejad is a member of.
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# David 2010-03-29 12:25
Sorry. That line in my previous comment "was even under control of the country that owned it" should have read "was NOT even under control of the country that owned it".
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-1 # Maddy 2010-03-29 13:24
I wish you weak ass complainers would find another place to vent, cause this AIN'T it! I'm positive Micheal would rather be on a safe beach somewhere with a couple of chicks in bikinis, but he eveidently feels some deep down dedication to go into harms way and report what the liberal media will not, unless it's body counts. Everytime you slam someone on this site, you are slamming the young men and women from the coalition troops and that's not acceptable. If you don't like the chatter and the truth you get here, then move on. All you do is upset the relatives of those who have peole deployed there and that's a really weak ass thing to do! Don't ever let any of us know who you really are, are you won't be posting here again! Thanks Michael, you're the BEST! Keep pouring on these bleeding hearts. To the guy that spent 17 months in Nam, thanks for your service! You of all people should know what it's like, so now shut the F__k up and make positive comments for the people over here fighting now for your sorry ass!!
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# Steven 2010-03-30 03:12
Thank you Winefred and may peace be with you Ms. Stanker. As the father of a 1/17 5-2 soldier I pray for all our soldiers in the ARV. They have been through so much. Hoping our boy's all make it home, they are getting so close.
3rd platoon B Co.
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# Jean Saunders 2010-03-30 03:52
Awesome photos. Many thanks to Mr. Yon for beautiful photography of my grandson's base. He drives one of those Strykers, I'm told, and now I know exactly what he looks at most every day.
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-1 # Sara Johnson 2010-03-30 05:37
We are ever so humbled when reading comments from the families who have given All. Also to those who have served and returned and contribute to the conversation, we thank you from the depths of our hearts. Only the gift of prayer can we offer in return, and our unwavering support to men and women currently serving. Thanks Mr. Yon.
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# Ted Bryson 2010-03-30 18:05
At one time I doubted your insight on Afghanistan, and I admitted that I was wrong.
I know now that your past, current and continued reporting of the AO has given me hope and respite from the MSM's gloomy reporting!
Thank you, brother.
Strength and Honor!
Ted from San Diego
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# Lynn Nash 2010-04-02 02:35
I'll chime in and add my thanks, too! My son, David, is Stryker Brigage driver/sharp shooter of the 5/2 4-23. Associated Press calls them the Gypsies. Between the images here and Associated Press, it helps me when I talk with him to understand more clearly where he is and what he's doing.
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# Marcus and Sally Boyd 2010-04-03 13:53
We enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work.

Just curious, what camera system are you using now? Perhaps you can post an equipment discussion some time in the future.

We are both into nature and bird photography. I remember you posting some nice photos of Iraqi birds a while back. Here are some of ours from the American continent for your enjoyment.

http://www.cabinwood.blogspot.com/

I have a Pentax K10, Sally has a K100. Mine is dunk proof (never going to try that!). The K20 would make a good Desert Camera. It is sealed too, and has a bigger sensor.

A blessed Easter Michael.
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# rieden308 2010-08-28 16:08
To all that will be taking down Kandahar with me, have a combat mindset and make yourself a hard target. Kill bodies and lets come home togethor "We the brave, led by the incompitent, do the impossibe, for the ungratefull".
To the Enlisted of "The Pro*******als".
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# Like I remember itGretchen 2012-10-02 04:26
i just googled Frontenac images... I was there from December 2011 to May 2012... I've barely been back four months and all I still think about is the night sky at Frontenac. I even printed and framed (of all the pictures I took) pictures of the various stages of night sky... I'm thankful you found such beauty in it. It was so incredible, and while glad I'm home, I still dream about seeing it.

I hope you are well, and thank you. So much.
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