Michael's Dispatches

Totally Wrong?

  Now the French military and NATO claim that the Globe and Mail article is wrong.  The headline over The Associated Press story reprinted in the International Herald Tribune reads: “France denies troops ill-equipped in Afghanistan.”

The AP article contained these quotes:

The newspaper is "totally wrong," Capt. Christophe Prazuck, spokesman for the French military, said Sunday.

"There is no formal report from NATO or ISAF of which we are aware on the events that took place at Surobi," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

Two previously unpublished photos of Afghan vehicle damaged during the attack that killed 10 French soldiers.

There is more where these photos came from.

The French military would be well advised to use circumspection before making such comments.   And NATO’s statement that there is no formal ISAF or NATO report of which they are aware, sounds like a classic non-denial denial, leaving them plenty of room to re-explain themselves when presented with additional evidence.  If NATO and the French persist in making these claims, the secret report, written by American Special Forces who were present, could find itself on the internet.  Certain embargoed details in the report are even more troubling than the facts that were published in the Globe and Mail article.

The loss of ten French soldiers is bad enough.  Let’s not make it worse with cover-up.  Truth leaks faster than helium.  It happened with the mythologized death of Pat Tillman.  And it will happen in this case.


# Matthew Gonzalez 2008-09-21 20:20
Its sad to see the military do things like this. Hopefully the truth will be set straight without any more stern threats necessary.
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# Tari 2008-09-21 21:10
Grow up, Matthew Gonzalez.

Brave journalists like Michael Yon are out there in this dangerous world, risking their lives to report the facts. And thankfully, *not* spin. We need them, and I'm thankful for them.

How brave are you to take potshots at them?

Thanks for this story, Mr. Yon. Stay safe.
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# Barry Jacobs 2008-09-21 21:14
Wouldn't surprise me to discover the French and NATO are engaging in a cover-up. That said, I see no evidence of "accurate small arms fire" or, for that matter, ANY small arms fire in the photos above. Am I missing something?
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# Richard R 2008-09-21 21:16
One of the best compact statements of fact I've ever run across.

I plan to use it frequently.

Thank you for your work, I've just hit the tipjar. Be well, be safe.
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# Debbie Kurtz 2008-09-21 21:31
I'm no expert, but aren't those bullet holes in the driver's-side door and the front driver's side hubcap, wheel well, and presumably the cause of the front flat tire? And, since the vehicle doesn't seem to be randomly sprayed with bullets, wouldn't that seem to be "accurate small arms fire?"
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-2 # Dave in Texas 2008-09-21 21:33
Let's face it, the Euros have used their military as an additional welfare program for decades. I lived in Belgium, and you never saw so many middle aged, overweight soldiers near the bases... just guys punching the clock and collecting government checks, utterly unprepared for any kind of deployment and certainly unequipped for same.

THe French can't be that different from the Belgians. Sure, they've got good Special Forces people, but let's face it, the Euros have not needed to spend money and time and blood to protect themselves over the past six decades... because WE did it.
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# Kevin Greene 2008-09-21 21:35
I'm no expert, but isn't that a pickup truck? Does it seem smart to send your soldiers to war in a pickup truck? The Dukes of Hazard went to war against Boss Hogg better equipped than this.

I saw go ahead and release the NATO report onto the internet Mike. The French people need to see how they're being led.
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# Chuck Pelto 2008-09-21 21:47
TO: Michael Yon, et al.
RE: I'm Not Impressed

Nor have I been impressed with French soldiers for quite some time. I think their last military victory was sometime before the Battle of Waterloo.

Indeed, during REFORGER 81, one of my battalion's companies was digging in and fell into a makeshift cave with a bunch of guys who didn't speak English. The radio traffic over the battalion command net was rather 'interesting'.

It turned out they were French 'special feces'. The infantry company commander who made the report of their discovery was informed to put them back in their hole, cover them up and forget they were there.

If the French are attempting to cover-up their inability to adequately provide for their soldiers in a combat zone, I'm not surprised. It goes along with the 'cover-up' we did of their 'special feces' types way back when.


[The more the French change. The more they remain the same.]
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# Bravo Jackass 2008-09-21 21:49
Get the impression that those who ambushed the French were "muscle bought in from out of town with some sort of military background" but apparently had no local transport in the area? Sounds like something a lot bigger than a simple ambush was in the works and when they assumed they had been detected let go with everything they had.
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# travis, the Lake 2008-09-21 21:53
I'm going to have to rethink my whole "All I need is a Toyota pickup, and I'm invinceable" mantra.
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# Bravo Jackass 2008-09-21 21:59
Gee, dissing the French after they get shot up and killed trying to get the job done. Too bad you aren't there to show them how it's done wussies.
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# possum 2008-09-21 22:06
If Michael says the French screwed up and weren't proper;rly equipped
that is fact as far as I am concerned.
Having said that, I still hope that French help in the Stan will continue and will improve. We need help there.

France's politicall leadership has changed for the better so there is some hope. Sarkozy, on the recent rescue of French hostages from pirates said "no negotiations". I second that. Lets hope American politicians agree.
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# Chuck Pelto 2008-09-21 22:17
TO: Troll Slag
RE: Yeah....

Gee, dissing the French after they get shot up and killed trying to get the job done. Too bad you aren't there to show them how it's done wussies. -- Troll Slag

Wish I was there. But I'm retired from the infantry now; 27 years in harness, as of 1997.

What's your point? And why aren't YOU there?

On the other hand, I hope, for your personal integrity's sake, that you weren't one of those people whining about our Hummers weren't properly armored.


P.S. If you can get me drawn back in, I'd appreciate it.....
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# Victoria Allen 2008-09-21 23:21
Rampant political CYA'ing within many of the European NATO countries have left the US, Canada, Australia and the UK holding the bag in Afghanistan, with situations like France's troops often suffering the consequences. During extensive research a year ago on the conditions in Afghanistan vis-a-vis opium poppy eradication/eli mination strategies, I was disturbed to find that several of the European contributors to NATO's ISAF presence had placed unbelievably limiting ROE's on their NATO contingents. I have not yet looked to see if this remains in effect, (and will do so shortly), but as of one year ago, Germany had restricted their troops in Afghanistan to only conducting ops during the day. Yep, their boys weren't allowed out to hunt Taliban/AQ after dark. Can you imagine LAPD's finest being told that they can only conduct ops against the Bloods and the Crips during the day??

Having seen that, sadly I was not all that surprised to hear that the French troops had been sent out in the middle of lion country with limited means. According to Clausewitz, "War is a continuation of politics by other means." Unfortunately, politics too often undermines the military's ability to conduct warfare effectively.
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# adw 2008-09-21 23:39
I can't believe anyone thinks this is worth denying. The G&M article was a bit damn precise for a journo to have just made it up.

This is pure, we weren't ready and this time it cost us, arse-covering BS.

As for the newly accurate small arms fire, that probably just means Al Qaeda proper were involved, they have always been a step up from the average Taliban fighter, and the Northern Alliance (as was) always freaked and ran the moment a few accurate head shots got delivered from effective AQ snipers.

This may not be a new threat, as much as evidence that this combined patrol rolled up into a hornets nest with some major players in it.
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# Alan Kellogg 2008-09-22 00:54
This is going to bring a government down
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# Aussie Digger 2008-09-22 01:40
Come on guys, a bit of perspective here. First, that vehicle is a Afghan National Police vehicle, not a French vehicle. These were French paratroopers, expert soldiers and dare I say it, probably superior to the average American, British or Australian infantryman. The actions of the Foreign Legion medic who was killed (who was French) were of the highest order of battlefield valour, easily deserving a Victoria Cross or Medal of Honor. He gave his own life to rescue the wounded and saved several of them.

If the French forces were ill-equipped, blame their government, not the troops. And if they took heavy casualties, blame the Taliban, because they set the perfect ambush. The Americans took a similar number of killed only a few weeks earlier in an attack on a fortified compound.

There is footage available online of French troops in contact in Afghanistan, and they are very professional, with very good infantry tactics, communication and fire control. It might even be said they are better in those regards than most American troops, because the US doesn't place as much emphasis on IMTs as other armies.
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# Mike 2008-09-22 01:43
I trust your sources; been reading your posts too long not to. NATO and the French need to know they will look like fools if they press this one further. That report will be leaked, with more photos of the battle, and the embargoed information will get out. That will not be good.

Just stay away from this one. A mistake was made, the French and NATO should actually read the AAR and then fix it, that's what they're for, right?

Stay away from the Lion on this NATO and Frenchies, or you'll get burned.

Thanks for the reports Mike; always a pleasure to read them. Stay safe.
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# Knottie 2008-09-22 02:07
Keep the truth out there Michael. The good and the bad. I told you before it is men like you who are going to tell the truth of this time when it is looked back on.

Be safe...

And send me a mailing address so I can get some packages to those Brits!!!
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# Jeff Shultz 2008-09-22 02:50

You keep doing that, they're going to quit letting you read Secret reports.

For that matter... why did they let you read classified in the first place?
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# Neo 2008-09-22 03:55
The French havenƒ??t put soldiers into anything this hot for a long time. Add to that Al Qaeda is specifically targeting them, and they arenƒ??t sending in their B team guys in to do so. The French troops that were sent are very good, but they are new to the situation. Unfortunately, their first brush with an experienced insurgency got them shot up pretty bad. Go read your history books, this sort of thing happens to well trained troops in a new environment all the time; intelligence is bad; people walk into ambushes; equipment that should work, doesnƒ??t; backup troops are too far away. The French troops will make their adjustments and move on, hopefully without too much unnecessary political stink to go along with it.

It sounds as if a few their commanders and bureaucrats are objecting too much. Welcome to the microscope of scrutiny. That will also be part of what they must deal with.
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# Old Blue 2008-09-22 04:45
First; yes, that is an ANP truck (Ford Ranger 4x4 4-door diesel, just like the ANA LTV.) It doesn't appear to be directly battle-damaged, but damaged in a rollover accident, which may have been battle-related. At that point, there was no district Police Mentor Team (PMT-D) in Surobi, so the training of the local ANP was possibly not good.

Secondly, the French soldiers are very likely being supported by an American LST (Logistics Support Team.) The French do not have anything like the logistics ability that we have in Afghanistan.

As far as their ammo, unless you are logistically limited for some reason, rolling out with less than one basic combat load of ammunition is a unit issue. If they were poorly supported, it may have been due to TF Phoenix and the American LST who was supporting them. Quite possibly not the French's fault.

Or it could have been poor PCI's, which would have been the fault of the French leadership in that unit.

The radios are a different subject.

I worked around French ETT's in Afghanistan, and they were just fine. They were no better or worse than anyone's troops, and they were motivated. Just like any other Army, some were exceedingly good and some were just okay.

The worst thing about the French is that they have a truly terrible medium machine gun.
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# thebronze 2008-09-22 05:15
...it certainly looks like roll-over damage, not battle-damage.
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# anon 2008-09-22 09:13

"MORIN: L'OTAN, elle-m?¦me, a d??menti l'existence de ce rapport. Qu'existe-t-il exactement ? Le compte rendu d'un officier du JOC -le JOC, c'est le Centre Op??rationnel - qui est un compte rendu parcellaire effectu?? ?ÿ chaud, le lendemain ou dans les 48 heures apr??s l'op??ration ?ÿ partir des ??l??ments dont disposait cet officier du Centre Op??rationnel. Ca n'est absolument pas un rapport au sens o?? un rapport, c'est un document o?? on m??ne une enqu?¦te, o?? on fait une analyse contradictoire des ??l??ments, etc. Ce que nous avons fait."

An AFP article in English: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gqx5PwNxm7qDs8gFoAOV0TekXHPg

"France's defence minister confirmed Monday the existence of a NATO officer's "account" of a deadly ambush of French soldiers last month, after a newspaper cited what it said was a report that said the force was ill-equipped.

Herve Morin told RTL radio the description of the battle in Afghanistan was a "fragmented written account done in the heat of the moment the day after or 48 hours after the operation, using elements at the officer's disposal."
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# Franchie 2008-09-22 11:25
chuck pelto

you just forgot to mention that your military academies learn of the Frenchs strategies from Napoleon and Algeria war, which our army won BTW, giving independance to Algeria was the result of a referendom, mostly influenced by the "marxism" ideology

and I agree, that our soldiers were not at the top awarness of the danger there, not enough arms and aerian support. Though you can't see that they "surrender", they fought till the rescues came, a few hours later. Also, their afghan troops betrayed them, they left the fightings, and their arms to the talibani
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# Chuck Pelto 2008-09-22 18:38
[continued from previous post]

not enough arms and aerian support-- French Soldiers

True. Aviation support is VERY important in dealing with an aggressive and clever enemy in this environment. [Note: I REALLY appreciated that at the National Training Center (NTC) where I found myself inadvertently playing hide-and-seek with the OPFOR in a Kiowa while I was trying to visit a subordinate battalion combat trains. Itƒ??s really interesting what you can see from the air.]

Though you can't see that they "surrender", they fought till the rescues came, a few hours later. Also, their afghan troops betrayed them, they left the fightings, and their arms to the talibani-- French Soldiers

Well....the French special feces we encountered in REFORGER 81 didnƒ??t surrender either. But I suspect they recognized REAL rounds being loaded into M16s when they were discovered. [Note: Weƒ??d had encounters with the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM) leading up to that point. Sorry, but most of our young men donƒ??t speak French.]

But if they HAD been trained properly, they would not have prepared their hide position in the obvious vicinity of where one could expect an infantry company to think, ƒ??This is a great place to defend from.ƒ?

While attending the Ranger Course, we were so instructed.....

....Donƒ??t go into a hide position that someone else might think is the best place to be.

As for ƒ??surrendering ƒ?? to Taliban....

....only a fool would even compare a swift death in battle to having their head sawed off with a dull knife for some video.


[Good judgment is based on experience. Experience is based on poor judgment. -- Army General Officer, addressing the assembled classes at Benning School for Boys, i.e., the US Army Infantry School]
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# Chuck Pelto 2008-09-22 18:39
TO: French Soldiers
RE: My Understandings

you just forgot to mention that your military academies learn of the Frenchs strategies from Napoleon....-- French Soldiers

As I said earlier, the French have not enjoyed a major victory on the field of battle since Napoleon.

....and Algeria war which our army won BTW, giving independance to Algeria was the result of a referendom, mostly influenced by the "marxism" ideology...-- French Soldiers


Algeria became independent and France got a lot of people whose children and grand-children have been burning cars in Paris.

This is what you call ƒ??victoryƒ???

....and I agree, that our soldiers were not at the top awarness of the danger there....-- French Soldiers

I have no problems with Frenchmen. They are men just as Germans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, etc., etc., etc.

What I DO have problems with is what their governments do for/with them.

In this instance, the French government has been lax in preparing their elite soldiers for what they had to face. Let alone equipping them with what they need in terms of equipment and support.

THAT is what Iƒ??m knocking the most here. Not the courage of their men. Men are men. And women love em for it.

[continued in next post]
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# Chuck Pelto 2008-09-22 20:16
TO: Jeff G.
RE: Heh....

....maybe it would be a good idea to increase the number of characters allowed in comments.

Either that or reverse the order of comment appearance.


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# franchie 2008-09-23 09:01
But if they HAD been trained properly, they would not have prepared their hide position in the obvious vicinity of where one could expect an infantry company to think, ƒ??This is a great place to defend from.ƒ?

I suppose, that you'v been watching the videos, now you know that the Frenchs also know their job, the problem is that the aerian assistance is aleatory

As I said earlier, the French have not enjoyed a major victory on the field of battle since Napoleon.

you forget Crimea war, the youth that is burning cars in our surburb are mixed with white, arab, black idle uneducated crap, like your big cities
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# Chuck Pelto 2008-09-23 16:48
TO: Franchie
RE: Case Made

ƒ??I suppose, that you'v been watching the videos, now you know that the Frenchs also know their job, the problem is that the aerian assistance is aleatoryƒ? -- Franchie

No. I have not watched the videos. However, based on the reports coming in from other sources, my suppositions sound like they are supported.

Then you have the complaint, expressed yourself, that supports my understanding from the perspective of not getting the support they needed. That can be with shoddy equipment or lack of air-support.

I tend to look at military operations from a holistic approach. That if you want to win on the field of battle, it's not just esprit d'corps, it's also training, elan, logistics, air-power, indirect supporting artillary, transportation, weapons, armor, intelligence and a government that provides you with what you need. Not to leave out a population that backs your efforts.

All of these go into making for victory.

RE: The Crimean

"you forget Crimea war" -- Franchie

Yes. And it is oh so forgettable. Please pardon my French, mais quelle catastrophe. But we've learned since then, ne c'est pas?

RE: Troubles at Home

"the youth that is burning cars in our surburb are mixed with white, arab, black idle uneducated crap, like your big cities" -- Franchie

Generally speaking, I don't look upon people based on the color of their skin. Education, i.e., 'motivation', yes. Skin color, no.

You have problems at home to deal with. And the efforts of your government, before Sarkozy, were akin to what Jeff G, is describing here....a cover-up. Please don't do the same here. It is counter-productive.

I hope that the new leadership can overcome this self-inflicted wound.


[Bonne chance!]
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# fred fred 2008-09-25 00:32
To Chuck(le)


the "special feces" you discovered were a "deep patrol" from the french 13th Dragon Paratroopers R??giment

Le commandant en chef des forces am??ricaines en Europe ??crivait en 1976: " Compar??es ?ÿ celles des autres sources de recherche du renseignement, les patrouilles profondes b??n??ficient de plusieurs avantages distincts par rapport aux sources de recherche, tels que la reconnaissance a??rienne et le renseignement par les moyens d'??coute: tout d'abord, I'engagement des patrouilles profondes est de 24 heures sur 24. La recherche se poursuit sans tenir compte de l'heure ou des conditions almosph??riques . Les patrouilles de recherche op??rent en ??tant bien moins expos??es aux contremesures de l'ennemi et, par cons??quent, b??n??ficient d'un taux de r??ussite plus ??lev??. Elles sont ?ÿ m?¦me de contrevenir les actions d??jensives de l'ennemi tels que le silence radio, le camouflage, les mouvements de nuit, et le brouillage ".

more on http://paras.niceboard.com/les-unites-actives-f54/13emr-rdp-article-t3397.htm (in french, sorry)
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# Carter Picotte 2008-10-17 19:29
They look like Martini-Henry and Martini-Enfield British Army issue. Circa 1871-1895.
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# there 2011-01-06 09:44
That photo is wrong. First and foremost there were no ANP there. Second the ANA that were there used grey trucks. Lastly, there's no cover-up, the information is out there. Have any of the reporters who expressed that, "there was a cover-up" actually talked to anybody who was there?
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