Michael's Dispatches

False Sense of Something: Some observations and thoughts on the unfolding wars



Despite that hardcore Taliban are known to wear sports shoes or sandals suitable for running, most American Soldiers lack training in combat tracking which could exploit this years-long reality.  The U.S. Army is stone blind on combat tracking. U.S. Marines conduct combat hunter training, which will improve their force protection and lethality. British, Dutch, Norwegians, and other allies also take tracking more seriously than our Army.

The soil in this image, and in southern Afghanistan in general, is ideal for tracking.  Before the assault, trackers might have easily detected that the base was under reconnaissance, or that local villages were suddenly filled with sports-shoe tracks.

Data-basing footwear and prints around Bastion and other key facilities is a no-brainer, though the chances that this is actually happening are close to zero.

Unobtrusively photographing locals and their footwear is simple.  But for a more direct approach, in some places, locals are asked to sit down with the soles of their feet facing the camera, and a photograph is taken with the face and the shoe pattern in the same photo.  This can make for easy matching, and it facilitates tracking of specific people.  Most Afghans have only one pair of shoes, and they are not sports shoes, which are expensive, and not suitable for farm work.

After the attack on Bastion, trackers could have backtracked quickly to the enemy lay-up position, or to the line of departure, but I have never seen our Soldiers track farther than to the end of a command wire after an IED detonation.

Interestingly, in hot-foot pursuits, normally the pursued will go to ground after just a few hundred meters.  Sometimes they jump onto motorbikes or into vehicles, but often they are very close and hiding.  Some U.S. infantry units will not pursue, while others look at gunfights as an invitation to a running battle where they will hunt down the enemy.  Those are the most deadly units.  Combat tracking is essential for good hunting in Afghanistan.

After the attack on Bastion, there is a good chance that a quick backtrack before daybreak could have generated a firefight with enemies who remained at the support area.  There is probably at least one person back there with a video camera and cell phones, who will dispose of the assaulters clothing that they wore before switching into American uniforms.  If is safe to say that the attackers did not drive across Afghanistan while wearing American uniforms in the hours before the attack.  They will have launched from somewhere close.

img008-1000Afghanistan base defenses circa 2011

The strongest defense at this point is that sanger at the end.  This fence is nothing.

Checking the soil, there is no realistic way to hide tracks.  The enemy is not going to waste time trying to disguise their tracks, which would not work anyway. After they leave the safe area and commit, they need to get to the target before being spotted.  The clock is running.

Backtracking in this area is like following snail trails on a sidewalk in the morning sun.

Image6-1000Battle damage from the attack

Bastion and other Afghanistan bases will be key in any near term fight with Iran.  The Israelis realize that this is the perfect time, before our numbers in Afghanistan dwindle.  The Israelis will want to suck us into any fight with Iran, and the Iranians will want to suck us into any fight with Israel.  Not that we need to get sucked in.

Days ago, Benjamin Netanyahu tantamount marked a red line on the calendar for next spring.  A betting man would place his money on action unfolding around any of the new moons in the next half year, and given our penchant for using sorry tactics and worse strategies, we could be in as much trouble as the next guy.

If a fight with Iran kicks off, we no doubt will make enemies out of friendly Iranians, and the Iranians no doubt can put up a fierce fight outside their borders.  Iranians are not simple farmers, but sophisticated, global players.


Guarding strategic bases like Bastion must be approached as a defense-in-depth.  If we go to war with Iran, or if they go to war with us, nothing will stop Iran from flooding the Taliban with surface-to-air missiles to knock down our helicopters and other aircraft in Afghanistan.  Prince Harry could find an Iranian missile locked onto his Apache.

Image7-1000RPG Strike?

On the small front, internal security and guarding weak fences will never be enough.  At the time of the attack on Bastion two weeks ago, security had become introverted.

Given the importance of BLS, our people should be on a first-name basis with every key villager for miles around.  Previously, the Marines’ security strategy included COIN.  They pushed out to the local communities and maintained an intelligence tripwire that could alert them to local intimidation, night letters, and the arrival of out-of-town visitors.

Needless to say, it would be good to know if visitors, or if a shoulder-fired SAM was seen in the village.  Several years ago, information came to me that the Taliban were trying to persuade Iran to provide such missiles.  An attack by Israel might be the pretext that they need.

On a tactical level at BLS, the last line of defense on the night of the attack literally came down to pilots and mechanics defending our jets in their hangars.  Our intelligence and our physical security failed together.

Interestingly, the reassignment of the top commander in Afghanistan, Marine General John Allen, was announced in the wake of this attack.

Image5-1000Demolished Marine Corps Harrier inside demolished hangar.

We put impossible tasks on the shoulders of too few, too late, while our top civilian and military leadership are proving inadequate to wage war.

At home, too many Americans expect too many others to behave rationally, based on world outlooks that are fundamentally at variance.  One man’s rationality is another man’s insanity.

And do not forget Pakistan.

Link to enemy video.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter · 9 years ago
    George Will said the best ideas are carried in books. To really influence, do a book again!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BSJ · 9 years ago
    And so many Americans think building a wall between us and the Mexicans will solve all of our problems…
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Deidre · 9 years ago
      I don't know of anyone who thinks building a security wall between Mexico and the U.S. will solve ALL our problems. Hyperbole!

      Heavily invaded areas are full of debris, environmental destruction, death and drugs. Give us your insight, BSJ, on how to solve the problem and not include at least some fencing in the heaviest illegal trafficking areas.

      BTW, what do illegals cost us in benefits, child payments, schooling, prison incarceration, theft, crime, loss of jobs which should go to Americans?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      judgebean · 9 years ago
      Build the fence, post the perimeter, arm the guards, give rules of engagement and that is how it works. You still have to convince everyone you're serious, YOU WILL HAVE TO FIRE A WEAPON.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        BSJ · 9 years ago
        Let’s do a little math. The border is 169km long. To post an armed guard every 00 meters you’d need 10,56 guard posts.

        At two guards per post you would need 21,126 guards. I assume you want them guarded 24 hours a day so you’d then need three shifts. So that’s 6 , 80 guards to man the perimeter for one day.

        And who’s going to pay for that, all the while having our taxes lowered too?
        • This commment is unpublished.
          annie · 9 years ago
          You obviously haven't counted the cost of all these illegals in our country costing us billions....taking our jobs...good construction jobs not just picking lettuce....schooling, health care, food stanps and the rape and pillage...the theivery....the murders and the dope cartels well established in our border states now....Bring the boys home and put them on the border. Stop kissing illegals asses. They are not just good family people wanting to feed their families. Let them go back to where they came from and clean up the trash countries they came from. I see what they cost us every day. Today they killed another of our border patrol near NACO...and wounded another...the same place the BC man was killed with one of Obama's guns he sent to the cartels. Wake up and stop being a pansy illegal lover.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Arnie · 9 years ago
          it would help solve the unemployment problem!
        • This commment is unpublished.
          John_G · 9 years ago
          Huh, guess they'd need a QRF able to move over distances. So this is stupid logic, we can't control our border because it would take too many guys, and we can't control their border either. COIN 101 is controlling the borders. What are we doing there?

          101st ABN was controlling the Syrian border just fine in 200 /2004 until State stopped them. What's your point? It's just will to do the job and politicians not meddling.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          YZ · 9 years ago
          Now now, you are getting into too much details. That's not something people like judgebean is good at. :cry:
    • This commment is unpublished.
      annie · 9 years ago
      The same people running our wars are responsible for our border security. Can you see the pattern? We have no National Security.....our citizens are not safe, ....not at war or in our own country. Stupidity or the acts of a traitor? I ask you? It's pretty obvious to me....Is it starting to be obvious now that we are reaping the results of our bad choices? What's the bottom line, Mike?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve S · 9 years ago
    Another well written dispatch that provides great detail and information.

    A great question is, how will Israel's strike on Iran hinder our operations in western Pakistan, to include, movement of supplies?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gordon · 9 years ago
    Why are motion sensors not used?

    Too many false alarms?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tommy Barrios · 9 years ago
      Having been responsible for the electronic security around Nuke storage areas and fully loaded alert B-52's, I can qualify that electronic security is only as good and useful as the folks operating same

      And we have some really really good stuff in the inventory, but if it is not being installed, maintained, and used properly, then it is about as useful as tits on a boar 8)

      As to false alarms, there is mitigation for that, highly trained operators and maintainers is the best mitigation against false alarms and potential breaches ;-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    in_awe · 9 years ago
    This is what you get for putting the TSA in charge of security. Next thing you know, we'll hear that the security forces are stealing! /sarc
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 9 years ago
    If your enemy is close make them think you are far away, if you are far away make them think you are close by...

    And the all time best advice by General Sun..

    The best way win a war is by never having to fight at all, by making your enemy believe you cannot be defeated 8)

    Ever heard of "peace through strength" :-?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 9 years ago
    If you are runnign a business or deepley invloved in one then you amybe surprised to learn that the tactics taught by General un in the Art of War applies directly to competitve business operations.

    There is book out called the Art of War in Business that does the correlation, do a search engine query :-*

    But if you get a copy of Art of War or do web search for same all you have to do is swap some terms and there you are, AOW in Business, swap "enemy" for "competitor", swap "spies" and intelligence" for "data mining", "troops" for "employees", that pretty much covers it, all the other details should be obvious if you already have management experience 8)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    That is just nuts, man ... Is there even one military base owned by Americans and for Americans and security is run by American troops ? What I can not understand is why are there not heavily armed UAVS flying over military convoy routes and stop IEDs from being planted ? Every security measure you can think of to put in place should be put in place. Let me say this not to disrespect politicians or generals but I say to the U.S. Troops you provide your own security and don't let the politicians or generals tell you any different. Quite frankly as an American citizen at home, I am furious with how things are going for the U.S. Troops. We should be making the al Qaeda & Tablian a living hell for them and not us. Tents for our U.S. Troops 11 years later ? The Pentagon needs to talk to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania about steel modular living quarters for our U.S. Troops. The research & development teams for the defense industry need to kick into high gear looking for stronger materials that will stop small arms fire, repel suicide bombers all the way to trucks loaded with bombs at checkpoints impervious to suicide bombers in trucks etc. This kind of thing can not be allowed to go on for the sake of our U.S. Troops. You are your own best security. There are a lot of good lessons to be learned from so that our U.S. Troops will be stronger next time around.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    I did not see the 2nd page until now and read through carefully, Michael Yon has given American troops & the U.S. Generals a better understanding of what needs to be done. We are in for one hell of a fight. Reinstate General Allen because we are going to need him. Bring back all the generals that were kicked off back to the military round table at the Pentagon whether President Obama likes it or not. The American People are taxpayers and We The People pay for our generals to implement common-sense training and proficiency in combat training as well what works for our soldiers. We also pay for the Presidency of the U.S.A. and I was shocked to learn Obama has not attended any military intelligence meetings. Obama is asleep at the wheel and as a result our troops are working twice as hard and in some cases I heard our troops are disobeying orders that make perfect sense at the risk of court martials. We really need to vote for a different U.S. President this November. What commander in chief does not attend military intelligence meetings ?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 9 years ago

    As I stated before a moat (what we now call anti-tank ditches) and some well documented and marked (where they field is) anti-personel mines made of metal or with a hunk of metal under them would have made the attack near impossible. The moat (with razor wire in the bottom would prevent trucks and motor bike assaults and AP mines would have stopped - or at least slowed them down or given notice - of attackers on foot.

    Jack E. Hammond

    PS> If the Iranians do help the Taliban with weapons big time, it will probably be two items: 1> 122mm and 107mm rockets with submunitions/bomblets and a the Bofors RBS-70. The RBS-70 is a laser beam rider and while it launch can be detected seconds before there is no known way to decoy it or jam it after launch. Di a google of "army recognition RBS-70" for an article I wrote many moon ago on it if curious.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    Michael Yon, I see a lot of similarities to British General Allenby and U.S Marine General Allen.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    Had a chance to watch the Tabilan video.

    Obviously, they did their job, what burns me up with anger the most is that they are wearing U.S. Army uniforms prior to their suicidal assault operations.

    I am sure they went on the suicidal mission 5 mintunes later then the U.S. base was attacked.

    This should have not happened. Now is not the time to blame or point fingers. Now is the time to get our stuff together, stop with lax security, plant mines and punji stakes whatever it takes to beef up security etc.

    The Tablian obviously did their job. That is what I meant by taking some time to count what the enemy can or can not do and we need to respect the dangers of what the Tablian is capable of.

    I am an American citizen at home and to see the homemade map of the Tablian planning the attacks on our troops is the same way the Tablian planned the Sept 11th airplane murders of American civilians makes me angry and sad.

    This is a glimpse into the black banner of al Qaeda and Tablian and the embassy attacks They waved the black banner of death. There should be no illusions what these very bad men are up to.

    The American People need to go to church and form praying & fasting circles for the U.S. Troops and it is time the U.S Military as a whole, both generals to enlisted needs to stick together and stop the in-fighting. Look at what needs to be done to stop the al Qaeda & Tablian from doing their jobs.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    Is this the kind of thing American & British generals and politicians want to be remembered for ? I say to the U.S. Troops and the U.K. Troops. Shoot the terrorists laying IEDs and if the troops are bring up on charges of murder then the military judge or civilian judge better have enough sense to dismiss these stupid charges and send them back to the front lines. Get the generals & politicians who instituted this policy fired at once. The al Qaeda & Tabilan no doubt told the farmers what to say to effect policy changes. DO NOT ALLOW THE ENEMY TO CONTROL YOU AT ALL !!! General Patton would not have tolerated this shit. Excuse my language. I am fuming mad !!!

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    General Patton would have issued an order if he were alive that goes something like this ...

    " Farmers are to collect harvests during daytime only. Be in your houses at nighttime. Anyone who is found roaming the countryside at night will be shot ! No apologies or payments will be asked nor given. "

    Post this to trees & farms and everywhere. There will be no excuses.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Josh · 9 years ago
    Michael, I have always appreciated your postings ever since the Gates of Fire. However, I'm concerned that since you have been removed from your embed that your views on US/ISAF progress in Afghanistan have become more of the couch generals you speak of. Your postings consistently degrade America’s views of what we are doing over here. Don't be one of those guys. Come back and see what progress is being made. Our 11 year struggle is just a blink in the eye of this rugged historical land.

    I would have loved to have you come visit us in far flung Farah and capture our story. I think you would have been surprised to find the progress we have made here with our Afghan partners. Maybe it is because we are a Navy based unit. We have had our setbacks like everyone else, I won’t deny that. However, I wish even half the people here would go to the DVIDS website and see what we have been accomplishing, but too many people rely on mainstream media to tell them what is happening in the world and they believe they are getting the full story. If it bleeds, it leads, right?

    I left California 15 months ago and I’m ready as hell to get back but I will be leaving here preparing for the day when the Navy will send me back here (the home of the Great Game) for Number three.

    Prosit nobis similibusque...damnabiliter paucibus

    “I would be the one. The one to go back and speak. A pain beyond all previous now seized me. Sweet life itself, even the desperately sought chance to tell the tale, suddenly seemed unendurable alongside the pain of having to take leave of these whom I had come so to love.” Steven Pressfield - Gates of Fire
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Ay Uaxe · 9 years ago
      [quote name="Josh"]Prosit nobis similibusque...damnabiliter paucibus[/quote]

      Indeed, here's to you and thanks from the very bottom of our hearts for your genuine patriotism and service of freedom. May God watch over you and yours, keep you and all our guys/gals safe, and bring all of y'all home well and whole.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Manny · 9 years ago
    DVIDS website


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