Michael's Dispatches

Straight Talk


09 March 2009

President Obama talks straight on Afghanistan.  We are not winning.  This bit of truth has been reported clearly on this website since early 2006.  In fact, not only are we not winning, we are losing.  Pakistan is a far bigger and more important problem than Afghanistan.  On the global scale, Afghanistan is tantamount irrelevant so long as we can deny sanctuary to people who will use that land as a base to attack us.

General Petraeus and others believe that reaching out to moderate elements is important.  Part of the strategy not described in the transcript below is to negotiate from a position of strength, which means much aggressive fighting ahead this year.  At the moment, the Taliban and associated groups realize that their negotiating positions – those who might care to negotiate – are improving month by month.  We must kill a lot of these guys to help the more moderate enemies realize there is incentive to negotiate.  This course carries great risk of alienating more Afghans, especially as more U.S. troops clog the roads and inevitable mistakes occur.  We need more people, but more people on the ground are almost guaranteed to also alienate more Afghans.  Our shelf life in Afghanistan is limited by numerous factors.  We must make a significant turnaround, in my estimate, by no later than late 2010.  There are tough times ahead, and no guarantees.

President Obama also mentions renditions and torture.  (I am working on a couple of dispatches on torture.)  Some enemies should never be released.  We should keep them until they die, but care should be taken to make sure we have the right people.  In past years, we have sometimes released the wrong people.  After release they have returned to the battlefields and killed people.

Please read this transcript.

Reassurance on the Economy, and Addressing Afghanistan

And please make sure that President Obama realizes that we are paying attention.  If his administration releases prisoners who attack or kill U.S. citizens, the responsibility will be on his shoulders.

If you have not read my dispatch “Gates of Fire” about a released prisoner shooting a U.S. soldier, please do.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jerry N · 13 years ago
    I wonder if the death toll of our troops in the Afghan will crank up to 4,000+ before we decide that either hooray we won, as we apparently have in Iraq, or (b) it just ain't worth it. My feeling is choice (b). The Brits learned the hard way back in the time of Rudyard Kipling ("When you're lyin' in pain on Afghanistan's plains...") and more recently so did the Russians. Obama thinks Afghan is the "good" war we should've been fighting while we were preoccupied in Iraq. I say the place is a pest-hole and we ought to get out before we squander more blood and treasure with no clear end-game.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Howard E. Morseburg · 13 years ago
    The main problem in Afghanistan seems to be thinking that is rooted in the thousands of years old tribal system and a religious fevor that still echoes that of a thousand years ago, as Kipling so aptly described it in the 1800s.
    Even while we're losing though, as well we may be, we're winning. How? For many our men and women are examples of a different life, a different way of doing things, a more enlightened society, a more progressive people. This is steadily undermining the Afghanis trying to keep to the old ways, and even the Taliban will eventually lose to it.
    The eyes of the children have been opened, their minds exposed to ideas from around the world, and they will begin to think differently than their parents and their ancestors have in the past.
    There are new roads, distant villages are now but hours away from Kabul and Kabul but hours away from any place in the world. Primative living will be changed by TV and computers, just as they have embraced the cell phone. Children will leave home to travel, to learn, and then return to teach. We've already left an indelible imprint. The Taliban will always represent opression to the majority, tyrants, not saviors. Each cellphone, each computer, each TV, has almost equal value as a soldier, because it brings light into the darkest recesses of the cave of ignorance and intolerance. It will penetrate those remote mountain strongholds in Pakistan as well.
    While victory may not seem evident, it is making its way inch by inch and foot by foot along those rocky trails, and our military is doing much of it without having to fire a shot
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ron Snyder · 13 years ago
    BHO doesn't talk straight about anything; that he said something about Afghanistan that may be true doesn't mean he is talking straight. Jeez, when he saiys something you agree with you almost become like one of the MSM folks. Please stop it.

    BHO is a cheap, corrupt Chicago politician. Do you doubt that he would screw our troops if it were in his best political interest? Perhaps you have been overseas too long since it seems your BS meter is a bit off.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Patrick Wood · 13 years ago
    Michael I want to thank you for standing up for what you believe and being honest about it. Even if I disagree with you (and I don't), I respect your courage and the sacrifice you are making for our troops and our country.

    I have never been in the military but I have always admired and respected the men and women that sacrifice their lives and families in service for all of us. I was a Pastor for several years near Fort Bragg, NC before and during the surge and I cannot put into words the love and repect I have for those who face death and dismemberment to protect us. Their lives are more important than our petty partisan political preferences or any hatred we may have for our enemies.

    We need to be careful that we do not sacrifice their lives in vain in Afghanistan. The Russians showed us how to fail there, we need to be smarter than our enemies and not play their game. We all need you to keep telling it like it is.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    rab · 13 years ago
    We need to take less prisoners. That will solve a lot of problems. Afghan arena can be contained from the air with satellite surveillance.
    Pakistan and Iran are the really big problems.

    Obama being anti Israel will hinder progress, e.g. Chas Freeman.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chip Seiple · 13 years ago
    "It is not possible to negotiate peace w/ an enemy that only wants war and sees that you only want peace"
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    coastdaze · 13 years ago
    We've known that Afghanistan was not a winner for us for some time. I'm glad Obama agrees, but he's not the first to say it nor is he the last. I hope that he doesn't realize what his policies are doing to our country - I hope he is just a jr. senator who made it big and doesn't have the experience to know when he's wrong - I hope his ultimate desire is for ultimate good. But so far I don't think my hopes are going to see the light of day.

    Gosh, how can we stay and how can we leave? "Losing the war, winning the peace" is Mr. Morseburg's line and it's a good one. I, personally, am torn between getting our troops out and leaving the citizens to the terrorists. I suppose at some point the people need to pull themselves up by their own boot straps.

    I get the feeling, Michael, that you're a bit "taken" with the idea of Obama. That's ok, he is charismatic. It's just that when one truly listens he seems to be a bit of an empty suit making promises and saying what the masses want to hear..."let the gov't take care of everything and you'll be fine" while spending us into oblivion. If this were a conservative Administration, the media would be going absolutely nuts with the billion dollar - trillion dollar spending! Hellooooo? Anyone care?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Cecil Trotter · 13 years ago
    Straight talk from Obama on Afghanistan? Really? Like his campaign promise to immediately send 0,000 more troops to Afghanistan and how that has now been trimmed to 17,000? That sort of straight talk? And it took him days shy of a month in office to get around to doing that. And I'm not sure, but I seem to recall that Bush had already authorized/planned for an increase at least that size.

    I can see how Obama's view of so called "torture" aligning with yours may enamor you with him, but please... don't cheapen your tremendous work on this site thus far by crediting Obama with things that just aren't true.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim Sumner · 13 years ago
    Perhaps the insurgents collectively known as ƒ??Talibanƒ?? in Afghanistan and Pakistan need closer examination. Perhaps these are not the same Taliban as the ones Mohammad Omar once ruled (he reportedly resides just across the border in Quetta, Pakistan).

    But maybe it is the same: http://www.911familiesforamerica.org/?p=1179
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jed_Dog · 13 years ago
    Have we forgotten that OBL has safe haven in a country that has nuclear weapons? He has been there for years now. Do you think he is just sitting back praying to Alla that the US won't find him? We have done nothing but make more enemies in that country and it seems to become more unstable as the years roll by. That plays right in the hands of OBL. Pakistan can't even maintain their own boarder. I hope that means they have more security watching their nukes. Pakistan is a ticking time bomb and needs to be treated as one, which is a world problem, not just a US problem. Wake up Europe and Asia!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stevend · 13 years ago

    The tipping point in Iraq became a tidal wave towards success when the Iraqi troops and leadership were able to take the lead.

    I have seen very little reporting - even from you - regarding the performance of Afghan troops or police.

    Can you give a report on how they are doing? Is there any reason to be optimistic that the Afghans are growing into the role of assuming the responsibility for their own security?


  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leonard Henry · 13 years ago
    I'm not over there and don't know the situation on the ground, but I've spent a lot of time hunting in the high mountains of Colorado. It seems to me that the very isolation and rugggedness of the terrain that gives these people sanctuary also makes them vulnerable. If the mountains of that region are anything like those in Colorado you just don't hike over them. The roads and walking passes must be constrained in such a way that interdicting them would make these valleys inaccessible. If these people can't get supplies then that makes it tougher for them to fight. Their access routes must be known to us. Why can't these people be cut off from travel? They aren't the only ones who can mine roads or otherwise make travel dangerous and difficult. Regarding Pakistan, if they don't or can't control these regions, then as far as I'm concerned they've forfeited national soverignty over these regions. Maybe they should be told as much.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JD · 13 years ago
    Getting out is not an option. When the Russians and the Brits left, nobody followed them home. Bush was right about that one; the Afghans won't, since they just want their independence. The nasty pieces of work who are using their country and Pakistan as a safe haven will. We have to take care of that problem before we leave.

    It's amazing how people make pronouncements so easily; the President is "corrupt" and "cheap". He'll sell out the troops if it's in his interest. Where the hell do people dig up this shit? You sound like the lefties during the Bush administration. I didn't learn a thing from your post, and it added nothing to this discussion. Kind of like the far left for the last eight years, eh? We're trying to win a war here, maybe folks could quit with the partisan bullshit and get back to reality.

    This is why I like Yon so far--no partisan shit, just an honest take on what's going on. If the president does something he agrees with, he agrees with it. If he doesn't, he disagrees with it. What a novel concept.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bob Hammons · 13 years ago
    Only John McCain and GEN Patraeus were talking about winning in Iraq? When Obama, McCaffery, Sanchez, Casey, Pelosi, Reid, Clintons, were all saying that Iraq was unwinnable? Winning takes determination, hard choices, and faith. If it was easy for the USA to win, why would anybody ever attack us? Just like in a football game, you have to want to win more than the other team. It's hard fighting a war when the GM is ready to quit any time the going gets rough. Its those at the top who need to get their heads right, not the troops down in the box. A NCO once told me to shake the hand of any vet wearing the 4ID patch because they survived the worse leadership in Vietnam. Sometimes I feel the same way when I look at that flag patch. As a group, the General Officers and up have let the US military down in this war on terror.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David G · 13 years ago
    The first four words "President Obama talks straight" are really the heart of the issue. Is he speaking of reality? In this case yes, we aren't winning and haven't been for a while. But if he was really talking straight we wouldn't have all the smoke and mirrors on troop deployments either: http://www.mudvillegazette.com/0 1615.html. There is also the history of him saying (and hoping) we were losing in Iraq, up until even the media couldn't continue that position. And then there is the worst part that he wants to end, not win, both conflicts. I don't call that talking straight, I call it typical politics.

    The points he makes so far are easy because it makes him look good, and Bush look bad. Does he really believe it? No one knows, because the message will probably change in a few months. When he starts "talking straight" and offering real solutions, then I'll be impressed. But I'm not holding my breath.

    Michael, you have been a beacon of honesty over these past years. Keep it up, even if we disagree with you sometimes!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael G. Barrett · 13 years ago
    A nuclear Pakistan with radical fundamentalists in charge is a nightmare which can never be allowed to become a reality. We owe this to future generations.

    Write off the weak ineffectual Pakistani Government, our support is buying extra time for our enemies to strengthen their positions. Our interests would be better served allying ourselves with India who has has as much to lose as us with a radical Pakistan. Let India help drain the Pakistan swamp and Afghanistan will sort out quickly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 13 years ago
    We have to win the struggle to keep our shores free from the horrible murder attacks experienced by Europe, Israel, and the middle-east. We cannot have backpack bombers murdering innocent women and children in our malls and shopping centers. The results of this would be catastrophic for all the innocents under the thumb of Islamic fascism.

    I remind everyone of the calls for blood after 9.11. Can you imagine the outrage and anger after the news media shows the broken strollers and remnants of bodies after one these sickos blows themselves up in a crowded shopping area like they do in Israel or Iraq?

    So if Barack Hussein Obomber wants to keep his job he had better make US security job NUMBER ONE and quit worrying about torture and political paybacks. He had better worry about the political blow back from such an attack on our soil!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Linda Brecht · 13 years ago
    Just see NationalReview's Campaign Spot.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Carl S · 13 years ago
    Everyone was in a trans, when BHO was campaigning, on how a great speaker he was. Well, the measure of a great speaker to me is the substance of what he has to say.
    Everyone must remember that BHO is more Arab than he is American, or for that matter, black.
    As long as the media wants to praise his Socialist ways and hide the real truth, we don't have enough smart citizens to know the difference and that is what BHO, the Democrats and the media are counting on. People like Harry Reid and Pelosi are only interested in their power and could care less about America or the soldiers that are dying to allow them their power.
    WAKE UP, AMERICA, before you really wake up and find that America is no longer the land of the free.

    Keep up the good work Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BlueJammy · 13 years ago
    I thought it was Afghanistan, now your telling us to not worry so much about that and focus on Afghanistan. How many wars are we suppose to fight? We fought in Iraq and you said it took away from our focus in Afghanistan. Now we are headed to Afghanistan and your saying we should be worried about Pakistan. Honestly, it sounds like your as confused as me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jwspooner · 13 years ago
    But will Obama have the fortitude to see this tough fight through?

    Obama may well regret jumping all over GW that he was "fighting the wrong war in Iraq."

    Already the poor man looks tired, hair graying and permanently wedded to his teleprompter; and it's not even 2 months into his term. What were people thinking?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    thad · 13 years ago
    the afghanis and their neighbors are ignorant when it comes to creating functional societies and therefore it must be imposed upon them from above. a killbox is created to bleed off dumb young men that the racket leading imams talk into doing everything except what is necessary to build a free society and Obama is the same f ing way. therefore we get to have a few more years of killing off their overstock and keeping our troops well trained and blooded. Otherwise they rot in forts getting weaker and dumber and the enemy gets more ignorant and backward.
    buidling nations and freeing people is a noble job but in the end a soldier is a soldier and better realize it. kill as many of them as you can, try and talk as many of them as you can into opening their mind and then go home when your time is up. welcome to the real world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jerry D. Brown · 13 years ago

    You are doing a good job of towing the Obama party liine. I guess that is Rhom (the ballarina)Emmanualle's price tag for an embed slot in Afganistan. Has he already written your dispatches for you? I really enjoyed your "Willie & Joe" style of reporting the Iraqi war. You obviously have started to believe your own and BHO's B.S. Ho hum...Have a nice time around the Washington D.C. cocktail circuit, I'm sure you'll be their darling.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Donald James Liveley · 13 years ago
    Yes, The Supreme Court in a unique case has said that a detainee will be tried in US courts, but it impacts only that case. The rationale for permently detaining individuals is under the "threat to society" statures that are utilized for the mentally depraved, sexual predators who can be declared by professionals as a threat to society and can be detained infinitely. The system is there to do that legally. Just in the recent court case it said that the president could not be the one who made the decison arbitrareily, rather as the system is set up it will have to be a team of professionals who will make that determination and I can be rather certain that they will be from the armed forces and FBI, CIA type personnel who will do the classification of the danger and threat that they hold to humanity and society.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    tb · 13 years ago
    All this talk about BHO better do this or do that if he wants to keep his job is naive. The media is way too invested in this creep to ever expose his lousy leadership decisions and policy. Get used to it. He's in for 8 yrs and we're no longer the America some of us grew up in. It's over. We've become mediocre...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    bluejammy · 13 years ago
    One thing I have taken from this site was bringing my attenntion the Pajamasmedia.com site. As I see Yon turning into a Obama puppet I feel at least my time has not been wasted. It's unfortunate that Yon has focused more on Obama then on what's happening on the ground. 6 months or so ago Yon had plently of photos and great storys about what's happening on the ground. Now I feel like I am looking at another Obama propaganda site. As i see that being the case I feel I have we have the right to talk politics.

    I am not ashamed to be a conservative nor do I feel ashamed about criticising the President. I don't care how long he's been in office. He knew the stakes. Liberals need to get past that, your guy is screwing up already. Obama made promises, insuated the country was moving in the wrong direction, and said he had a better way. It's time to anty up. But as we can all see he does not have the answers. Maybe that's because there are still a number of key positions unfilled under his staff. Rookie mistake? Unprepared? Bad manager? Wrong managment team? Who knows. I would think he would need all the help he can get and right now he's barely treading water.

    For someone who says they are unbiased you(Yon) sure don't present both sides of the story in each Obama article. Many of us have pointed out that these great ideas and pearls of wisdom from Obama have been said by the Bush administration. Yet you continue to fail to give credit to the orignial source in the same article.

    I thought maybe I was the only one who saw this change in your reporting but the other posts have confirmed my thoughts that you are turning into another version of the dirve-by media.

    On the bright side, I'm sure you'll have lots of money to by your equipment.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    woodNfish · 13 years ago
    Carl S: "Everyone was in a trans, when BHO was campaigning, on how a great speaker he was."

    You may have been in a trance Carl, but I never was. I knew what Obama was from the start. Anyone who kicks off their political career from the living room of a terrorist is a worthless, lying scumbag in my book.

    Michael, you use the sycophantic mouthpiece of the Democrat party, the NYT, as a source? Give me a break!

    Screw Afghanistan. They and Obama can rot. We should bring all our troops home from around the world, close most of the bases (leave maybe strategic ones), and put the savings back into the American publics wallets. We get no benefit being the world police.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Charlie B · 13 years ago
    I agree with Yon, we can only negotiate from a position of strength and the best outcome we can hope for is to keep Afghanistan "irrelevant" as a sanctuary for Islamo-facistists/Taleban, and this will likely come at the expense of more dead American soldiers. I believe the price will be higher if we surrender and leave, as this will yield a recruitment bonanza for the bad guys and the likelyhood of another 9/11.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    LTC Larry A. Frostd · 13 years ago
    I respectfully object to comments like those from bluejammy and Jerry D. Brown. I'm a believer in long-term evaluation. Mike has spoken what he sees as the truth for a long time. Don't always agree with him, but he appears to be telling it as he see sit. Highly placed sources I knew on Petraeus' staff when Petraeus was in charge in Iraq agreed with that assessment.

    Just because what Mike says now happens to agree with some things Obama is saying doesn't prove he's an Obama puppet. Further, the idea that someone who I think is dangerous and perhaps even evil - Obama - can never have a correct idea is absurd. Mike has been on the ground in 'stan, and what he says matches up with with a lot of grunts there say. Check out their websites or ask a few, if you know any. If Obama thinks we are in trouble in 'stan and the boys on the ground think so too, maybe Obama is merely reflecting the best advice of his military officers. Ever think of that?

    Don't mistake your partisanship for Mike's. We'll see eventually if he's a fellow traveller of Obama's , but frankly I doubt that, based on evidence to date.

    Larry A. Frost
    LTC, Intelligence Corps
    US Army (Ret)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Befort · 13 years ago
    Those readers who seem to be giving up on Michael Yon, whether because he's willing to listen to Obama, or for some other reason, should let us know who else they've found to provide fair, full-time coverage of U.S. forces abroad. If there were any justice, Mike would already have been awarded a Pulitzer for what he's accomplished, and he'd have to go very far wrong before I'd be ready to do without him. I can certainly understand why he might wish to avoid any appearance of political prejudice.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Deanne · 4 years ago
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