Published: Sunday, 21 February 2010 21:45
22 February 2010
“Johnny Boy” Captain John Holland was walking out to the aircraft just as I arrived at the flight line.
Captain Holland asked, “Are you ready?”
The Marjah offensive—billed as the biggest US/NATO/Afghan assault on the Taliban ever—had begun. With it, the attention of nearly all the reporters covering Afghanistan is focused on Marjah. Yet fighting continues across the country, in provinces with names unfamiliar to most people. Men and women are wounded. Some die. Some are saved by dedicated medical crews, and by the pilots who fly into combat to ferry wounded to some of the best trauma facilities in the world, right here in Afghanistan. This story is about the people who care for our troops, wounded correspondents, and many other people, day in, day out.
Read more: Whispers
Published: Thursday, 18 February 2010 06:22
18 February 2010
On Feb. 9th, in a field near a road, an Afghan soldier squatted to relieve himself. He picked the wrong spot. A bomb exploded, blowing off a leg, and he died. Captain John Weatherly, Commander of Charlie Company of the 4-23 Infantry at FOB Price in Helmand Province, mentioned that in passing as he described the series of events that led to the death of Specialist – now Sergeant – Adam Ray, a vigorous 23 year old, born in Tampa, Florida. The bomb the Afghan stumbled upon was near the IED that struck Adam.
Without the thousands of culverts underneath, the roads of Afghanistan would be flooded and washed away during the snow melts and rains. In safe countries, drivers pay as little attention to culverts as we would to telephone poles. As a practical matter they are invisible to us.
In the war zone that is Afghanistan, life and limb depend on noticing normally mundane things like culverts. They are a favorite hiding spot for the Taliban to plant bombs intended to kill Americans driving the roads. Hundreds, even thousands of pounds of explosives can be stuffed inside, launching our vehicles into the sky, flipping them over and over, sometimes killing all. And so, in some areas, soldiers on missions must stop dozens of times to check culverts for explosives. Since we do this every day in front of thousands of Afghans, they know our patterns. In addition to planting bombs in culverts, they plant mines and other bombs near culverts, to get men who stop to check.
Read more: Adam Ray
Published: Sunday, 14 February 2010 20:00
Written: 19 December 2009
Published: 15 February 2010
This is a story of warfighting and technology, and what life is like on the ground for our troops, as they do their best in war.
Last night a soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed. The attack occurred just hours before the 82nd was to relieve 1-17th Infantry from duties in portions of the Arghandab River Valley near Kandahar.
Earlier that morning, soldiers from 1st Platoon, B-company (1-17th) had taken me on a short, easy mission out to a micro-base called “Brick 1.” The Platoon leader was 1st Lieutenant Ryan Fadden, while SFC Dimico was the platoon sergeant. The platoon was ready. Despite the filthy environment, weapons were clean, the gear was sorted and the men were in good spirits and a business-like frame of mind. They seemed confident. It looked like Lieutenant Fadden and SFC Dimico were on their jobs. The battalion had lost 21 men KIA during the first several months of combat—the Brigade lost 31. An article was about to be published in the Army Times which might lead one to believe that the 1-17th is not combat-ready. The author, Sean Naylor, is as highly respected as he is experienced, and so his words are taken seriously. Yet during my first week, despite serious stresses in some places, the men seemed ready.
Read more: Patterns
Published: Sunday, 14 February 2010 18:32
Published: 14 February 2010
Published: Wednesday, 10 February 2010 12:03
Left seat Pilot Thomas Sonne; Right seat: Major Bill Tice.
10 February 2010
American forces are stationed at bases far and wide around Afghanistan. Some bases are like towns, such as Camp Bastion, Kandahar Airfield, and Bagram Airfield. But mostly they are small, often occupied by only a handful of troops.
Logistics into Afghanistan is a nightmare, and it only gets worse after you cross the border from the North or from Pakistan. By comparison, Iraq “logs” was like a run to a convenience store down the road. Afghan logs are more like driving from Miami to Seattle for grocery shopping, and then driving the groceries back to Miami while under threat of attack. Not a speck of exaggeration in that statement. Enemy logs interdiction was a large constituent of the Soviet defeat, despite that the Soviet Union comprised the entire northern border of Afghanistan. When the Soviet hammer tried to crack the Afghan rock, the hammer shattered. The Soviets can easily put people in space and keep them there, but they couldn’t handle backdoor logistics during their Afghan war. It’s easier to keep people in space than to supply our war here.
Read more: SEVEN
Published: Monday, 08 February 2010 03:08
08 February 2010
American troops are spread widely across Afghanistan. Some are remote and accessibility is difficult. In 2008, I was with six soldiers in Zabul Province who didn’t even get mail for three months. They had no email. They were on the moon. Six courageous men, in the middle of nowhere, and their nearest backup was a small Special Forces team about five hours away. Resupply to these small outposts is crucial, difficult, and would require major effort by ground. Enter the United States Air Force.
Read more: Special Delivery
Published: Monday, 08 February 2010 03:08
Translation by J. Dale
8 de Febrero, 2010
Tropas Estadounidenses estan desplegadas extensamente a través de Afganistán. Ciertas zonas son remotas y la accesibilidad es difícil. En el 2008, yo estuve con seis soldados en la Provincia de Zabul que ni siquiera recibieron correo por tres meses. No tenian correo electrónico. Ellos estaban en la Luna. Seis hombres valientes, en el medio de la nada, y su relevo más cercano era un pequeño equipo de Fuerzas Especiales a cinco horas de camino. El reabastecer para estos pequeños campos aislados es crucial, difícil, y requerie un tremendo esfuerzo por tierra. Aquí es donde entra a la escena la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos.
Read more: Entrega Especial
Published: Friday, 15 January 2010 14:04
15 January 2010
Cobra Battery at FOB Frontenac
Artillery is called “The King of Battle.” When it comes to the delivery of force, probably nothing outside of nuclear weapons can outmatch the sustained delivery of extreme brutality. Cannons also can deliver small atomic weapons.
Read more: Spitting Cobra
Published: Monday, 04 January 2010 04:29
04 January 2010
(Unfortunately, this news comes as I wait to board a flight from Hong Kong to the United States. It must be written quickly and without editing.)
A reporter at Canwest News Service emailed Saturday asking for information on the four Canadian soldiers and the journalist who were killed on December 30 in Afghanistan. I supplied a portion of the unpublicized information, and the reporter emailed Sunday that the Canadian military is “trying to suppress our telling of your information.”
The reporter also wrote, “While the Canadian military confirmed to me much of the information you provided, they are trying to prevent us from publishing it, saying it would breach our agency's embedding agreement.”
There is nothing classified or sensitive about the information supplied to Canwest. This smells of a classic cover-up that has nothing to do with winning or losing the war, but more likely something to do with saving embarrassment.
Read more: Canadian Cover Up?
Published: Thursday, 31 December 2009 04:15
New Year's Eve, 2009
On this small base surrounded by a mixture of enemy and friendly territory, a memorial has been erected just next to the Chapel. Inside the tepee are 21 photos of 21 soldiers killed during the first months of a year-long tour of duty. The fallen will belong forever to the honor rolls of the 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and they will join the sacred list of names of those who have given their lives in service of the United States of America.
Read more: Into Thine Hand I Commit My Spirit
Published: Thursday, 24 December 2009 14:22
24 December 2009
Many people know that General Petraeus is one of finest Americans ever minted. To me, General Petraeus is a strategic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. If General Petraeus didn't show up, we likely would have flown our Iraq efforts into a mountain. We now have a solid chance for success in Afghanistan.
I emailed asking for General Petraeus to say something to our folks for Christmas. General Petraeus responded with this excellent message:
Read more: Christmas message from General Petraeus
Published: Tuesday, 22 December 2009 19:17
Published: 22 December 2009
By Barry McCaffrey (General Ret.)
Dr Wayne Smith
Center for International Policy 22 December 2009
1717 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC. 20036
Just got in last night to read the Reuters reports that Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez denounced President Obama at the Copenhagen Conference as an "imperial and arrogant liar" in the most vile and personal terms imaginable.
The Foreign Minister could not have borrowed talking points from Cuba's worst enemies to more effectively harm the country's future economic and political interests.
The AP wires also note Raul Castro mentioned Cuba's recent "war games" to prepare for US invasion. What a laughable assertion of an external US military threat.
Read more: General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey Cancels Trip to Cuba
Published: Tuesday, 22 December 2009 13:14
22 December 2009
Brian Williams from NBC emailed to me something for the troops. Brian is a Great American.
I was in Afghanistan about two months ago, and as usual the best part of the trip were the Americans in uniform who we met along the way. I think about all of you every day. I tell my civilian friends about you, and about what I've seen. They all know that you are the people I admire most. We toasted all of those deployed overseas at our Thanksgiving table, and we will on Christmas Day and on New Year's Eve. I appreciate your service, and we appreciate our freedom.
We owe you all a staggering debt.
For now, Happy Holidays and the blessings of the season to you all.
Published: Sunday, 20 December 2009 04:57
20 December 2009
As Christmas approaches, many people are thinking about the troops, who in turn are thinking about loved ones at home. Cards and letters are tacked up on many walls. The favorites are from the little kids, with questions like, "How do you go to the bathroom?" "Can you eat dinner?" "Does it hurt to get shooted?" It goes on.
I emailed to Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger, asking if he had any words for the troops this Christmas. Jeff came right back with this awesome letter:
As you make your rounds over there, please to remind them that we know they are there and appreciate their performing their duty in such a magnificent manner.
Then CSM Mellinger writes:
I awoke this Saturday morning at PT time (0430), and looked at my surroundings. The worst winter storm in DC for a number of years had arrived in force. Snow, and lots of it. Roads are closed, planes are grounded, and people are huddled comfortably inside their homes or foolishly out trying to learn how to drive in snow.
Read more: As Christmas Approaches
Published: Sunday, 13 December 2009 03:12
13 December 2009
People are confused about the war. The situation is difficult to resolve even for those who are here. For most of us, the conflict remains out of focus, lacking reference of almost any sort. Vertigo leaves us seeking orientation from places like Vietnam—where most of us never have been. So sad are our motley pundits-cum-navigators that those who have never have been to Afghanistan or Vietnam shamelessly use one to reference the other. We saw this in Iraq.
The most we can do is pay attention, study hard, and try to bring something into focus that is always rolling, yawing, and seemingly changing course randomly, in more dimensions than even astronauts must consider. All while gauging dozens of factors, such as Afghan Opinion, Coalition Will, Enemy Will and Capacity, Resources, Regional Actors (and, of course, the Thoroughly Unexpected). Nobody will ever understand all these dynamic factors and track them at once and through time. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that a tiger doesn’t need to completely understand the jungle to survive, navigate, and then dominate. It is not necessary to know every anthropological and historical nuance of the people here. If that were the case, our Coalition of over forty nations would not exist. More important is to realize that they are humans like us. They get hungry, happy, sad, and angry; they make friends and enemies (to the Nth degree); they are neither supermen nor vermin. They’re just people.
But it always helps to know as much as you can. This will take much time, many dispatches, and hard, dangerous work. Let’s get started.
Read more: Arghandab & The Battle for Kandahar
Published: Monday, 07 December 2009 12:19
Now BayNews9 story.
Local man reports on troop morale in Afghanistan
Sunday, December 6, 2009
(Bay News 9) -- For the past five years Winter Haven native and former Green Beret Michael Yon has been covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an independent journalist.
A couple of days ago Bay News 9 spoke with him on a Skype connection to Afghanistan.
Yon has been reporting for years that the U.S. risked losing the war there.
Read more: First December Report From Afghanistan
Published: Wednesday, 25 November 2009 03:26
24 November 2009
Adam Holloway, a British Member of Parliament, sent this PDF yesterday evening. Mr. Holloway is definitely worth reading and considering.
I will land in Dubai on Thanksgiving evening, and from there push to Afghanistan.
Read more: Afghan Ideas from Great Britain
Published: Wednesday, 18 November 2009 03:56
17 November 2009
There has been much curiosity about the procedures involved during the embed process. The process is constantly changing, and is different for Iraq than for Afghanistan. A Philippines embed is different still, and requires embassy approval because, am told, the State department is worried about what one might say. In Afghanistan, the process with the British and Lithuanians also varies. The process can be dramatically different for powerful media outlets, who often come in on "junkets." In Iraq, in 2005, saw CNN have two helicopters dedicated to it for a day in Diyala Province. (I went with them.)
Read more: FYI: Paperwork for Afghanistan Media Embed
Published: Monday, 16 November 2009 15:17
16 November 2009
When New York Times journalist David Rohde was kidnapped last year in Afghanistan, the company engaged in a painstaking effort to squash the story. They succeeded in persuading major media who learned of the kidnapping to keep quiet. The cover-up was so good that a New York Times reporter I spoke with in December 2008, while she and I joined Secretary Gates on a trip through Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and back to the United States, had not heard about the David Rohde kidnapping.
The New York Times openly agrees that publishing such articles increases the peril to the lives of hostages, yet it published details about a British couple being held hostage in Somalia, and thus increased the value of the hostages to the kidnappers.
Some months after Mr. Rohde’s kidnapping started leaking, I published a generic blurb about the case, but made sure none of the information was new.
Read more: Hostages
Published: Friday, 13 November 2009 02:32
12 November 2009
I asked General David Petraeus, General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, about the Japanese decisions on Afghanistan. (The Japanese plan to recall their refueling capacity but to add $5 billion dollars in development aid over five years.) All three responded. This from Geoff Morrell, who is the spokesman for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
"We welcome Japan's additional contribution and its continued partnership in the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan."
Answers from Generals Petraeus and McCaffrey are here.