Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

Embed Approval

47 Comments

23 May 2011

The US military in Afghanistan has approved my return with US forces.  Embed should start roughly 02 June with no particular end date in mind.  The plan is to start down South, head to Kabul, then elsewhere.  There will be much fighting this summer.  The Taliban appear to be taking a terrible beating.

Of note: rumors were spread last year that I had been barred from embed for OPSEC violations.  I have never been barred from embed.  Not for OPSEC or for any reason whatsoever.   No military has ever accused me of OPSEC violations.  The accusers have been discredited.  For example, some within the milblog community spread the rumor that I had been disembedded from Canadian forces for security violations.  I’ve never embedded with Canadian forces.

Bottom line: I should be back in Afghanistan in about 10 days.

Loaded Gun

47 Comments

16 May 2011

Iraq 2005

Combat was relentless in the surrounding city.  Explosions rumbled in from the neighborhoods and washed over base, which was itself under frequent attack by rockets and mortars.  Four days before Christmas, soldiers were having lunch on the heavily guarded Forward Operating Base (FOB) Marez when a jihadist walked into the dining facility.  His vest detonated, killing 14 soldiers, 4 US contractors, and 4 Iraqis, and wounding about 80.  Casualties were rushed from the tangle to the hospital at FOB Diamondback, where the follow-on attack began.  The enemy rained indirect fire trying to hit the triage at the Combat Support Hospital.

Read more: Loaded Gun

Last Will of Osama bin Laden

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Last Will
of
Osama bin Laden

In the name of Allah the merciful the forgiver,

[This is the] Will of a poor man to his god in the highest, Osama bin Mohammad bin Ladin,

Thanks be to Allah, and peace and prayers over the messenger of Allah, his family and all his companions. We implore his justice and guidance and call on him for assistance from our evil and ill deeds. He whom Allah guides, none can lead astray and he whom Allah leads astray, has no guide. And I testify that there is no god be he alone, ascribe no partners to him and I testify that Mohammad is his slave and messenger. We beg him in the highest to accept us in martyrdom along with the righteous of his worshipers and to perish us as Muslims.

Allah had commanded us that in case death approached to leave a will for both parents, relatives and all Muslims […] and whatever saddens them, saddens me and Allah attests to what I am saying.

Read more: Last Will of Osama bin Laden

From the White House: New INFOSEC Guidelines

101 Comments

05 May 2011

President Obama campaigned on a platform of Government transparency.  To his credit, he has taken steps in that direction, such as lifting the ban on photographing flagged draped coffins returning from the wars.  Again, to his credit, he made it clear that Americans should not be shielded from the horrors of war.  Paradoxically, yesterday, he banned the release of photos of the body of Osama bin Laden. 

Read more: From the White House: New INFOSEC Guidelines

Death of a Terrorist

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02 May 2011

Our people have hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden.  Thank you to all the military and other good people who tracked him down to his own sanctuary.  We can only hope that the materials captured at his hiding place will lead to more terrorists, and that they will meet similar ends.

Today I received a message from the office of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “Secretary Gates is enormously proud of everyone involved in making yesterday’s operation a success.  It was an extraordinary achievement.”  It certainly was.  America is today extremely proud of our secret warriors and the considerable organizations that facilitate their work.

Read more: Death of a Terrorist

The Mysterious Well: Part II of II

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Farah-Well-Fort-14-web1000Axe Handle Cam

Events from Farah Province, Afghanistan
Published 24 April 2011

The previous dispatch ended with Kris LeBoutillier lowering his camera into the mysterious well at Kafir Qala, which is believed to be more than 2,000 years old.

The depth and contents of the ancient well were unknown – that was a big part of the mystery.  So Kris brought 1,000 feet of steel fishing leader.  He secured the camera and a flashlight to an axe handle using tape, thus making the Axe Handle Cam.

Read more: The Mysterious Well: Part II of II

Important Message From Libya

20 Comments

22 April 2011

I’ve been reading traffic from a private worldwide group regarding the sad loss of journalists Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington in Libya.  The people discussing the loss include names you sometimes see on national television, in books, and so on and so forth.  The bylaws of the group preclude my publishing names or emails without permission.  When Nancy Youseff’s message came in from Libya, the importance of the substance of her message was clear. 

Read more: Important Message From Libya

The Mysterious Well

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IMG_8086-web1000Kak Kohzad

21 April 2011

In Afghanistan, there is a mysterious and ancient well.  Nobody knew how deep it was, or what might be down there, but some locals thought it might contain bones of their ancestors.  My friend Steve Shaulis came upon the well while working in Farah Province, and decided to launch a team to unravel its mysteries.

Read more: The Mysterious Well

Last Man Standing

41 Comments

IMG_6387-1000-webKuchi Girl in Farah

05 April 2011
Many Provinces, Afghanistan

As the Afghan war wears on and politicians, diplomats and generals thrust and parry about an endgame, one thing is clear: The outcome of this war will be decided by the last man standing.

Who that will be, and what has to happen before everyone else quits the field, are the questions that remain unanswered.

Read more: Last Man Standing

Rolling Stone Advertisers

5 Comments

A Partial List

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absolut
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Garnier bath products:
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Jim Beam Whiskey
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Maker's Mark whisky
Moisture Rescue
Nestle
Nissan
Norton (Symantec)
Nutri Pure
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Old Spice
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Turbo Tax
Ultra Lift
Ultra Lift Pro
vVamedic.com
Volkswagen

Rolling Stone: Boycotting Advertisers

137 Comments

31 March 2011

In 2006, I launched a boycott against a magazine owned by a huge conglomerate.  The Boycott damaged the magazine but the extent was unknown.  Eight months later, the press reported that the magazine had died.  (Early Christmas Present for Michael Yon.)

The boycott was not done on a whim.  The magazine staff and other involved parties had perpetrated a series of egregious behavior before I finally decided to spend time to pursue them.  Such is the case with Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone has been around for a long time and has weathered many storms.  They may feel invincible.  Rome and the Soviet Union probably felt the same way.  In this world, cities and indeed entire countries go bankrupt.  Powerful billionaire dictators get hunted down and imprisoned, or killed.  In the corporate world, we commonly see the huge and powerful reduced to the latest example of the bigger they are the louder they squeal.  Nobody is invincible.

Read more: Rolling Stone: Boycotting Advertisers

Calling BULLSHIT on Rolling Stone

244 Comments

29 March 2011

Seldom do I waste time with rebutting articles, and especially not from publications like Rolling Stone.  Today, numerous people sent links to the latest Rolling Stone tripe.  The story is titled “THE KILL TEAM, THE FULL STORY.”  It should be titled: “BULLSHIT, from Rolling Stone.”

The story—not really an “article”—covers Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) in Afghanistan.  A handful of Soldiers were accused of murder.  It does in fact appear that a tiny group of rogues committed premeditated murder.  I was embedded with the 5/2 SBCT and was afforded incredible access to the brigade by the Commander, Colonel Harry Tunnell, and the brigade Command Sergeant Major, Robb Prosser.  I know Robb from Iraq.  Colonel Tunnell had been shot in Iraq.

Read more: Calling BULLSHIT on Rolling Stone

Pulp Nonfiction

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image001

06 March 2011

A story in The Telegraph today describes how the British MoD bought and pulped the entire first printing of a new book for ‘national security’ reasons.  Having had my own dealings with MoD, I didn’t believe a word about the national security excuse.  More likely someone, somewhere, was embarrassed by the book.  And then came an email from the author of the pulped nonfiction, Toby Harnden, with a completely different explanation:

 

Dear Michael,

I hope you're well and staying safe in Afghanistan.

I don't know whether you've heard about this but the UK MOD has just paid nearly $250,000 to buy the entire print run of my book "Dead Men Risen" - supposedly because it damaged national security and put lives at risk (in reality, I'd say, much more because it highlights a number of very uncomfortable truths). Now all the copies (reportedly 24,000)are to be pulped. This is despite the fact that it had been through a four-month MOD clearance process and had been given the OK for publication. The book, with very minor alterations, will now be out on March 17th.

I know that you have no illusions at all about the way the UK MOD operates with journalists. One of the villains of the piece this time was the same guy who I think went for you over the embedding things you were embroiled in nearly two years ago.

There's a news story about it here.

And I'm posting all developments on Facebook here.

Amongst other things, the book covers Major Guy Stone and the Welsh Guards who were up in Sangin when you went out with them in summer 2009.

Cheers,

Toby

[Email reprinted with Toby’s permission.]

101st Airborne

10 Comments

04 March 2011

Plans are afoot to embed with the 2-506 Infantry in Paktika Province.  If all goes well, the hard work will begin several weeks from now.  The Battalion Commander is Lieutenant Colonel Don Hill.

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War Stories & Rumors

16 Comments

tankimg_9890_1000-webRussian Tank near Tarin Kot

02 March 2011

There are always the stories.  Some true, some not, most are hybrids.  There was the story in Iraq of the farmer who found a crashed UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).  The farmer thought it might try to fly away so he tied it to a tree.   There was the rumor among some Iraqis that the UAVs were piloted by mice.

When I went through the excellent British tracking school on Borneo island, British instructors warned about Afghans who can track you across the rocky desert.  The instructors said a sniper team had moved into place in Afghanistan, was tracked down and killed.  Such tracking would be easy to do in most places here.  If you move during daylight--making it easier to hide your tracks--you might be spotted from miles away.  But if you move at night for any appreciable distance, you’ll almost certainly leave behind an easy to follow trail.  You might was well drop a red marble every ten steps.

I heard a story that, given the source and circumstance, had the ring of truth.  It went like this: Taliban had been attacking some cooperative villagers with IEDs along a road.  In response, one of our Special Forces sniper teams secretly moved into place to shoot the Taliban.  The sniper team, out there on its lonesome, spent the night waiting.  Patience is ninety percent of their game and with sunrise they had gotten nothing.  But the team had been compromised, and an Afghan was coming straight toward them and when he finally got close, he found them pointing weapons straight at him.  “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!  I am from the village!”  The man was not the enemy, but was sent to bring a “grocery list” from the village to the Americans hidden on the hill.  Nobody was hurt.

There is no telling how much of this story is true, though it’s good for a laugh, and is in character of the place, the Afghans, and, for sake of storytelling at least, it’s true enough.

Scorch & Puddle

11 Comments

puddle-finalimg_9661-webThe Puddle

28 February 2011
Urozgan Province, Afghanistan

This morning, we drove a dangerous unpaved road from Tarin Kot to Dehrawud, passing recent bomb craters and ancient wrecks of two Soviet tanks.  The muddy road often splashed brown soup across the windshield while grey skies threatened to unleash again.  More rain could bring flash floods that could leave us stranded in Taliban country.  We kept our heads covered as we splashed through villages and dark men and boys often tried to peer in.  Away from the villages, in the countryside, there were occasional flocks of sheep, goats, and camels, along with countless opportune ambush sites.

Read more: Scorch & Puddle

Dead Taliban in Chora

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(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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