Michael's Dispatches

The Road to Hell


13 October 2008

Tim Lynch and Shem Klimiuk: if you need to go somewhere in Afghanistan, these are the men to call.  Unarmored, low profile.  Dangerous.

The Wilds, Afghanistan

Since leaving the British embed, I’ve gone unilateral.  I flew back and forth between Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, drove around and talked with people down south, then flew up to Kabul.  In Kabul, I met Tim Lynch and Shem Klimiuk (a retired USMC and ex-Aussie paratrooper, respectively), and we drove in an unarmored truck east to Jalalabad.  The canyon-filled drive would be dangerous even if there was no war, but there is a war – a rapidly growing one — and Tim pointed out burnt spots on the road where ambushes had occurred.  I was unarmed, and counting on the military experience of my two guides as well as their combined seven years experience in Afghanistan.  In the weeks that I would spend with Tim and Shem, we drove more than a thousand miles up and down Afghan roads without the slightest drama, except that Tim scares me with his driving.  If you are rich and want the adventure of a lifetime, contact Tim Lynch.   You might die.  But if you live, you’ll come back with a new perspective on Afghanistan.

On our first trip, we drove from Kabul to Jalalabad.  The road passes through a village called Sarobi.  Sarobi has become known as the place where ten French soldiers were killed on 18 August, 2008, although they were not actually killed in Sarobi, but near Sper Kundy.  The French soldiers were on a reconnaissance patrol in the Uzbin Valley, about 40 kilometers east of Kabul.  At approximately 15:00 local time, they were spread out over a steep slope and started taking fire from the ridges above.  The gunfire was fierce and accurate.  After 90 minutes, the French vehicles ran out of ammunition, and they abandoned a counterattack.  They fought for four hours without reinforcements, which were slow to come because the French troops lost radio contact and could not call in air support or reinforcements.  According to a secret after action report that I have read and was quoted extensively and accurately in the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper, the loss of radio contact was probably due to the fact that they only had one working radio.  Soldiers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) had accompanied the French patrol, but they were apparently worse than ineffective, “lounging on the battlefield” until they finally dispersed, leaving their weapons and equipment, according to the report.

Reinforcements eventually arrived, but the fighting continued into the next morning.  The French dead were not recovered until mid-day.  By then, some had been stripped of their weapons, equipment and uniforms.

Not reported:  The body of an interpreter who had worked with the French was left on the field.

The Sarobi ambush was the worst single day toll for the French military in a quarter century.  Most of the troops were from the Eighth Paratrooper Regiment, which had been nearly wiped out in the siege of Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam in 1954.  Shortly after the ambush, polls showed a majority of French people favoring an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, but President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the war effort.  On September 4, Paris Match published photos of “Taliban” fighters wearing uniforms and holding weapons taken from the French soldiers.  The photos whipped up bitter controversy over whether the photographs were newsworthy or just propaganda for the enemy.  I remember seeing photos of the day when my high school friend, Scott Helvenston, was murdered in Fallujah.  One of those photos received a Pulitzer Prize.  There was also great controversy in the United States when our government tried to squash photos of flag-draped coffins returning from the Iraq.  Yet when I was in Iraq, one day we lost four good soldiers and an interpreter, and I published photos of their flag-draped coffins.  In fact, the American commander of the excellent battalion, LTC Eric Welsh, requested that I do it. He wanted to honor his men.  After publishing those photos, I received no threats from the U.S. military, individual soldiers, or our government.  So the problem was not the content of the photos – in this case, flag-draped coffins – but whether the subject was treated with proper respect.

As we drove along the road between Kabul and Jalalabad, Tim stopped the truck near Sarobi, where we could see the village in the valley below.  Tim said that Sarobi is “HIG” country, and that it was actually HIG who killed the French.  Not the Taliban.  HIG, or Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin, was founded by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord who hates the U.S.  HIG is a terrorist group and a faction of Hizb-I Islami, all with ties to al Qaeda and Bin Laden.  Hekmatyar offered homestead to Bin Laden more than ten years ago.  Collectively, we call these groups (and others) “Taliban,” but that blanket term is not completely accurate.  The Afghanistan/Pakistan insurgency is a complex, distributed and hydra-headed network of different people fighting for different reasons.  Sometimes they work together, sometimes they don’t.  If they “succeed” in kicking us out of Afghanistan, they will probably end up fighting each other.  Some of the people we call Taliban are al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.  Others are local insurgents fighting for revenge, self-respect, or because they’re simple, ornery mountain folk who have traded in their spears and torches for AKs and RPGs.  Iraq is a few decades behind the west; Afghanistan is practically on a different planet.

As we looked down on Sarobi, Tim pointed to the area in the hills where the French had met their end.  He said that when we drive through Sarobi, the “Taliban” will be easy to spot: they are the ones wearing tennis shoes.

Tom Ricks of the Washington Post later wrote me:

“Please be careful down in the Sarobi area. It has long been a nest of banditry. For example, it is where the convoy of journalists going to Kabul in late 2001, as the Taliban tell, were ambushed, and some killed.
Stay safe,

Three journalists were traveling to Kabul when gunmen stopped their vehicle.  The journalists were taken out and killed.  The driver and the interpreter were allowed to live, so they could describe the ordeal to the world press – which they did.

But that’s not all.  Stories of pure wildness emanate from Sarobi.

Like this one from The Independent:

“Warlord Set ‘Human Dog’ on Hostages, court told.”

“An Afghan warlord accused of torture and hostage-taking kept a ‘human dog’ in an underground pit which he unleashed on his victims, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

“In the first criminal trial of its kind, Faryadi Sarwar Zardad, 42, who now lives in London, denies waging a five-year terror campaign in Afghanistan in which civilians were routinely beaten and taken hostage.  He was running a pizza restaurant in south London when he was arrested in July 2003.

Must be some interesting restaurateurs in London.  The story continued:

"’The human dog was biting people and eating testicles under the orders of the soldiers at the checkpoint,’ said Lord Goldsmith.  Another witness would testify that his brother was taken from a bus by soldiers and was later killed, said the Attorney General.  He had accompanied British police officers to the Sarobi area and identified three of Mr Zardad's checkpoints to them.

"He points out where the 'human dog' was kept in chains and said if travelers did not have money to pay the soldiers, they were put in a tent with the 'human dog'."

Good grief.

When we drove down through Sarobi, we saw perhaps a half dozen men wearing tennis shoes, but there were no human dogs in evidence.  We made it through the town with no dramas, passed a lot of places where vehicles had been ambushed, and finally arrived in Jalalabad.

I heard there was a great U.S. battalion near Jalalabad, and I tried to embed with them, but they were full at the moment.  The battalion commander and his folks at 6-4 Cav have a fine reputation, and if there is one thing I’ve learned about US and British commanders, when they know they have a great bunch of soldiers, they like to show them off and brag about the unit.  It’s like grandparents rambling on about their families.  When I popped up on his radar screen, the battalion commander said come on and get over here.  But the controllers of the media switches, who were very helpful and responsive, didn’t have any spots at the moment.  There were also time consuming issues involving getting a badge to embed.  So I stayed unilateral.  The only question was: where to go next?

Tim Lynch had an idea.  Why don’t we try to talk with villagers from Sper Kundy, the village near Sarobi where the French were killed?

It took several days to set up, but a few phone calls and some planning later, we were on our way.  While it was too time consuming to get with our guys, I didn’t need a badge to listen to the enemy.  But it wasn’t just a question of logistics.  I wanted to talk to the enemy, because that’s the best way to understand them.  When we spoke with enemies in Iraq, oftentimes we found we had greater common interests than we ever expected.   (And there were people who thought that talking to the Sunni insurgents who eventually became the Awakening was a bad idea.)  Eventually, we stopped fighting and joined forces, and beat the rat droppings out of al Qaeda.

Meeting with the Enemy

"It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right."

George Kennan

On 26 September we headed back to Sarobi.

Tim was driving while Shem was the front passenger.  I sat in the back with “Z,” our interpreter.  All of us dressed in local garb, and put our sunglasses in the glove compartment.  Tim and Shem wore clothing over their body armor.  We were heading to meet with three men.  Our first contact was in Sarobi.  We were to first meet with him, then he would facilitate a meeting with two men from Sper Kundy.   We drove into Sarobi and picked up the initial contact named “Abraham,” whose English was not so good.  Then we drove out of Sarobi in the direction of Sper Kundy, where we met the other two men.

Now we had seven men in the crowded truck.  When the two from Sper Kundy noticed Tim and Shem’s rifles, I saw alarm on their faces.  There was some rapid talk between Abraham and Z.  The two men from Sper Kundy thought that we were soldiers and they had been tricked, but Abraham pointed to my camera and notepad and eventually the men settled down.

We set off toward Sper Kundy.  As we crossed the bridge over the river, the men got nervous because of the police.  They covered their faces with their scarves.  We crossed the bridge with no problem, but the area we were heading into was truly bad guy country.  The Uzbin Valley.  Where NATO forces only go in large numbers, and with armored vehicles and aircraft for high cover.  We were running behind because Z had shown up late, and there was no road directly to Sper Kundy, meaning we would have to walk in.  With the delay, there was no way we were going to make it out before nightfall.  Also, something didn’t feel right, so I called “no joy” and we decided not to head to Sper Kundy.  Instead we would hold the meeting somewhere else.

We crossed the Sarobi dam, which can be seen in the distance.  NATO does not come up here without massive firepower.

That’s Sarobi across the water.

Land of the Human Dog.

We kept going, until finally the men thought the best place to sit down and talk was on a hilltop.  I did not like that idea, but choices were limited.  As we stepped out of the truck, I mentioned to Tim that this was a great way to get hit with a Predator strike, which he had already thought of - he and Shem left their rifles in the car, so they wouldn’t be mistaken for armed enemy.  We also took off our body armor so that NATO aircraft, which surely must be prowling because of all the missions going on in the area, would not spot seven men, fat with body armor and weapons, just near where the French were killed.  We were not around any villages and so we were an absolutely perfect target.  Everyone had cell phones.

We met at an old fighting position. I was truly worried that we would be hit with a Hellfire missile or JDAM bomb.  I’d seen plenty of these situations play out.  Often the people on the ground have no idea they are targeted, then they die.  I knew our guys, or the Brits, would not fire on unarmed people, unless one of those telephones belonged to an important enemy.  But what if jets or helicopters from some other country, like France, spotted us?  I had no idea how they might behave.

And so the meeting began.  The man on the left said his name is Mohamood Farooq, and the man on the right identified himself as Abdul Samad.  Both of them were from Sper Kundy.  Mohamood said he was “Taliban,” while Abdul claimed he was not.  In fact, Abdul said he hated the Taliban.  Mohamood Farooq is also the name of a Taliban commander whose family had recently been killed in an airstrike that was targeting Farooq but missed.  Apparently this was a different Farooq because I asked about his family and he said his family was fine.

It was Ramadan and there was white on Abdul’s lower lip that looked like salt from dehydration.  Z, the interpreter, said he was so thirsty he could drink a lake.  Mohamood and Abdul were respectful and direct.  I did not sense that these men would try to harm us.  I sensed they only wanted to tell their side of the story.

Abdul said that the villagers had liked the French and the Americans before the fighting, but now they hated them.  Abdul called himself the Malik of Sper Kundy, meaning the head man.  Mohamood and Abdul both said they were teachers.  Abdul taught math and English.  Abdul said he was from the Sahak tribe, and both men were Pashtun (the largest ethnic and linguistic group in Afghanistan).  Abdul pointed out that there were no Taliban in Sper Kundy, which contradicted Mohamood who teaches in the same school and claimed on sidebar to Z to be Taliban.  Abdul said there was Taliban in neighboring villages, though.  Abdul said that about 350 families live in Sper Kundy for a total of about 1,200 people, which seemed like a small population for so many families.

I asked them to describe the fighting with the French.

Their phones kept ringing and I expected an airstrike at any moment.

Abdul said that three American Humvees came the first day, along with ANA (Afghan National Army) and French soldiers.  He said that the French were out away from Sper Kundy when 35-40 Taliban attacked.  Abdul called them “Taliban.”  He said the Taliban commander was Mula Hazart, whose nickname is Mujahid.  They said that about half the Taliban were Pakistanis.  I asked to meet with the Taliban commander.  They said he had been shot in the shoulder and went to Pakistan.

Abdul, who can speak a little English, said that at first they liked the French and Americans because they were friendly and helpful.  But he said that local people now see people who wear a uniform “all have one same face.  ANA and NATO are all in one hand.”  He said the French were killed about three kilometers from the village, and though he said he did not see the killing with his own eyes, Abdul was told that some were captured and then killed.  Mohamood said that the Taliban were trying to capture some of the wounded French, but they kept fighting so the Taliban killed them.

“We hate the Taliban and we hate the Coalition.  The foreigners promise, but do nothing.  [President] Karzai is only words.

They told me that the body of the interpreter for the French had been left by the French troops.  The interpreter’s family wanted the body returned so they and others collected the body, took it to Kabul and gave it to the French.  (American military sources later confirmed to me that Afghans brought the body of the French interpreter, an Afghan, to French forces.)

Abdul said that after about the first 24 hours of fighting, there was no water and the local kids were crying.  He also said that after the French had been attacked, they drove their vehicles into Sper Kundy and parked between the houses for protection.  Abdul clearly thought this was cowardly, hiding behind the families, and he said the French damaged walls and houses when the Taliban continued the attack.  As the Malik, he came out to complain.  Abdul said that a French soldier hit him in the back three times with his fist.  I told him that he should have gone to the American commander if he had a problem, but Abdul said that my words were not like reality.  (Actually, I know American and British soldiers.  If they see kids crying they get upset, but if they see an angry man during a fight, there could be another reaction.  I don’t know how the French soldiers are.  I have had more contact with the Taliban than with French soldiers.)

They said four civilians were killed by one of the airstrikes -- three men between ages of 40-45 (most Afghans apparently do not know their own ages), and one 11-year-old boy.  They said another civilian was wounded, and villagers took him to a hospital in Laghman.

Abdul told me that during the fighting, about 200 animals had been killed, including 27 cows.  The rest were sheep and goats.  Abdul also claimed to be able to tell the difference between American, French and ANA vehicles, and that the French had fired four Milan rockets during the fighting.  He actually called them Milan rockets.  He said three rockets hit the hills, but another rocket badly damaged a house or building in Sper Kundy, and he said the school also was hit during the fighting.  He claimed that nobody – not the U.S. nor France nor Afghanistan - paid for any damages.  I asked Abdul to estimate the complete damages and he put it at about $20,000.  I said there was nothing I could do about that, but I knew the right people to contact with the complaint.  (And I did later pass the word to the right people.)

Abdul said that on 18 September at about 11 p.m., the French, U.S. and ANA attacked another village in the Uzbin valley.  He said they landed in about 10 helicopters.  Abdul said that villagers ran from the helicopters because they were afraid.  He said, seeing them run, soldiers shot and killed four and captured six.  I had seen a report saying four had been killed and another four captured, so there was a discrepancy on how many were captured.  Abdul said he did not know where the captured men were taken and they have since disappeared.  He said the soldiers were on the ground for about 4 hours and flew away at 3 a.m.  He also said that the men who had been taken prisoner were not Taliban, but four were businessmen from Khost buying fruits, and that the other two men were from Uzbin village (which is in Uzbin Valley).  Mohamood said the villagers had noted the direction the helicopters flew off in, but didn’t know of any bases in that direction.

Abdul and Mohamood said they were not present during the 18 September attack, and they might have wrong information.  But I was able to check many parts of their stories, and most details were corroborated by solid sources.  After checking with knowledgeable U.S. and other sources, I believe Mohamood and Abdul were telling the truth as they knew it.

Our meeting was originally planned for 25 September, but just before Tim, Shem and I took off, we got word about a big mission that was unfolding near Sper Kundy.  I wanted to go, but Tim said that it would be a bad idea. When a retired USMC infantry officer with four years of Afghanistan experience tells me to cool my heels, these heels are cooling.  I took the day off.  And so the meeting took place on 26 September.  I asked Abdul about the prior day’s mission.  He said that about 40-45 vehicles came.  Most of them were French, but there were also ANA and Americans.  He said the villagers became afraid, but the soldiers said they were not coming to fight, and so the villagers relaxed.  Abdul didn’t know why they came.

I was getting concerned that the longer we stayed on that hilltop, the more we invited an airstrike or an attack by the Taliban.  Even if just for a couple hours, I felt what it might feel like to be a villager, caught between two fierce lions.  I know which lion I want to win, but that did not ease my feelings that we might get hit by our own airstrike.  I can only try to imagine how the villagers must feel.  Imagine that fierce, unpredictable power from the air.  Airstrikes are impressive affairs.  Much more impressive in person than on television.  Although I know our folks are extremely cautious, we’ve earned a reputation for killing lots of Afghans by accident.

The Taliban are a force that people might not like, but they can learn to understand and even live with them.  We saw in Iraq that many people wanted to have a predictable despot in charge, while others were willing to take the risks of democracy.  Those who wanted the dictator would accept that he was cruel, and angry, but they could learn to live by his rules.  So, hatred of the Taliban doesn’t translate into love for us.  The Afghan people might not have liked living under the Taliban, but they also know that one day we’re going home.  And the Taliban are home.

The seven of us loaded back into the truck and started back toward Sarobi.  When we came to a good view of Sarobi, the men from Sper Kundy wanted to take a picture, which I found curious.  Why would a man who has lived here all his life suddenly want a photo of Sarobi?  Maybe he had a new camera.  Had it belonged to a French soldier?

I focused on the camera.

The date and time in his view finder was 2008/09/26 at 06:27AM.  The date and time programmed into my own camera was 2008/09/26 at 10:24AM.  My cameras are set to GMT.  It appears that someone had taken the time to program the date and time on this camera.  But this is not Afghan time.  France is one hour ahead of GMT. Some parts of French-speaking Canada are four hours behind GMT.  But none of the ten French soldiers came from Canada.

We dropped off Mohamood and Abdul, and headed to Sarobi to drop off Abraham.  There we saw a French patrol coming from the direction of Kabul, and turn right up an unpaved road.  The French did not point their weapons at people, and the soldiers seemed to try to be non-menacing.  But I’ve noticed something with the huge amounts of military convoys I’ve seen; when you are embedded with the convoy, you don’t feel menacing, because, at least with the Brits and U.S. when I go with them, I know they take great effort not to hurt innocent people.  But up on that hilltop, sweating out the possibility of an airstrike, and now watching the French convoy in Sarobi, it’s easy to see why we wear out our presence.  We don’t want to be a pain to normal people, but we are.

After dropping off the Afghans, we headed back from Sarobi to Jalalabad.  At 1530, Shem spotted a man above the road to the left with what he thought was an RPG, and he thought someone was about to get attacked.  We made it back to Jalalabad and the only drama was Tim’s driving, which was a lot scarier than the idea of an airstrike.  Sometimes I closed my eyes.  (There was a report that on 04 October, there was an illegal checkpoint on that road where the bad guys apparently were looking for pro-government people.)

We made it back to Jalalabad, and later that day, I was given 32 photos and videos from another source.  These images were of the Taliban who I believe killed the French.  During some of these videos some men were carrying the French weapons and wearing French uniforms.  All of the photos were shot with a Fujifilm Finepix F480 camera.  I was given the photos on a thumbdrive.  I do not know the model of the camera that made the videos, but apparently it’s the same F480 camera that made the still photos.  All the still photo and video files have the prefix “Padsfsf.”  Fujifilm advised this is not a prefix that their cameras use.

The following photographs came from the thumb drive.

Gear from French soldiers is leaning against the tree, and other gear is by the rocks behind the men.  Prayer times vary.  The date time stamp on this photo is 11 September 2009, at 05:47, though they just might not know what year it is.

Date/Time stamp: 11 September 2009 at 4:54:58 AM.  The time on the camera seems wrong.

Foreground is a corroded mortar; leaning against the rocks is an old rifle and RPGs.  Background, the man appears to be sleeping with his head on French body armor (the high resolution images allow zooming in), and there appears to be a French helmet on the rocks next to the tennis shoes.  The AK-47 is affixed with the bayonet.  Did this bayonet kill some of the French? (At least one French soldier was killed by a blade.) Did this man get the gear because he killed the owner?  Did they strip the soldiers first so that the gear would not be bloodied?

French helmet and gear.

The photographer got artistic, and shot a photo down the tube of this weapon, capturing the reflections of an RPG.  I showed this photo to Tim, and he opined that this is a Type 65 82mm recoilless rifle “missing the loading door which is why I say it’s broken.”  Very impressive weapons ID, if Tim was right.

RPGs and tennis shoes – Taliban style, just as Tim had said.

The date and time on this photo is 10 September 2009 at 10:57:04 PM.  Clearly this is not a photo shot at nearly 11 p.m.  A very smart person could probably figure out the time on this camera based on the changing time stamps and the changing shadows.

There appear to be three “windows” in the rocks, behind the unfortunate creature.  Are those rocks a fighting position?  The rocks can be like sandbags.  Were French soldiers attacked by fire from those holes?

Taliban mess hall.

Amazon.com sells the Finepix F480 for $134.88.  Did the camera that shot these photos belong to a soldier?

Taliban in captured French gear and weapon.

There was speculation that the French soldiers were killed by the airstrikes.  But it seems highly unlikely that the soldier who owned this uniform (and other uniforms in the videos) were killed by friendly-fire from NATO planes.

Photo made by F480 camera.

There were videos of men with the French weapons in this setting.  (Not seen here.)  Often they made no attempt to hide their identities.

Shortly after meeting with Abdul and Mohamood, I read in the press that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had released a video claiming responsibility for the Sarobi ambush.  Gulbuddin said that he lost ten men in the fighting.   Meanwhile, the Taliban were also claiming credit for the ambush.  Some “170 heavily armed rebels” had attacked the soldiers, who killed “between 40 and 70 enemy fighters,” according to French officers quoted by Agence France Presse.  That same news report also had this interesting item:

The Taliban had previously rejected working with Hekmatyar's faction, but analysts have suggested they could be involved in some joint activities.

Hekmatyar, who served as prime minister briefly during the 1996 to 2001 civil war, is known as one of the most radical warlords in Afghanistan. The United States has offered a multi-million-dollar reward for his capture.

Tim had said explicitly that this was HIG country, not “Taliban.”  The reports make it appear that he is correct.  And so, perhaps, when Abdul claimed he was not Taliban, and, in fact, hated the Taliban, he might have been telling the truth.  (I got the feeling that he was.)  Maybe Abdul was with HIG.

When I was up on that hill with Abdul and Mohamood, they never mentioned religion.  They did not seem like terrorists to me.  They came across as men with their own lives who wanted to be left alone.  Yet I was unhappy with the thought that I might be in the presence of men who had something to do with the deaths of French soldiers.  I originally obtained the 32 photos and videos on 26 September.  At first, I refused to publish them or even show them to anyone.   Then, after much thought and consultations, I decided to publish them, hoping I could do so with respect for the fallen soldiers.  There is a great sadness in my heart about this war.  A relative handful of terrorists can provoke more than three dozen countries to come to Afghanistan.  The fire they started could consume the democracy of Pakistan.  The French came to Afghanistan as our NATO allies – if they surrender, will the alliance hold?

Two days after our meeting, the French were attacked again nearby.  This time nine of them were wounded.  The next day, down near Kandahar, another four French soldiers were wounded, along with two Canadians.

On October 9, the Agence France Presse reported:

French army chief rules out military victory in Afghanistan

PARIS (AFP) — The head of the French military General Jean-Louis Georgelin on Wednesday backed comments by a senior British military officer's view that the war in Afghanistan was unwinnable.

A British officer "was saying that one cannot win this war militarily, that there is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling," Georgelin told French television channel Public Senat.

This is exactly what the Taliban want, to split off our allies and create a sense of desperation among those willing to stay.  The Canadians are also getting hit hard.  And the Brits as well.  By picking off our allies, and undermining the domestic support crucial to supporting the war effort, our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are trying to isolate the U.S. so that they can eventually force us to leave.

Is this war winnable?  I don’t know, but my gut instinct is that Afghanistan/Pakistan will devolve into something worse than Iraq ever was.

Afghanistan is considered “The Good War” only by people who don’t realize (or refuse to acknowledge) how difficult the situation is.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And that seems to be the road we’re on in Afghanistan.

But for the moment, let’s forget geopolitics, and remember the soldiers who gave their lives not just for their country, or Afghanistan, but also for us.

Americans love to visit the beaches of Normandy and pay tribute to their countrymen who died for France.  Well, here are the names of the ten French soldiers who were lost in combat on 18 August 2008, in a battle for Uzbin Valley.  They, too, deserve our gratitude and respect.

Damien Buil

Kevin Chassaing

Sébastien Devez

Damien Gaillet

Nicolas Grégoire

Julien Le Pahun

Rodolphe Penon

Anthony Rivière

Alexis Taani

Melan Baouma


These soldiers were deployed in the name of peace.  May they rest in peace.



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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Greg H. · 13 years ago
    Michael: Every time I read one of your dispatches I'm taken back to when I was in Jbad. Our compound was on the west end of the city on the Jbad to Kabul road. We would see both regular and special forces head out on a regular basis. Sometimes they would stop by (we had better food than the PRT). Very good soldiers. Seeing casualties from them or their counterparts from other countries always takes a bit of the wind out of me. Seeing the HIG fighters with the French gear engenders another emotion entirely. God bless and keep all of those brave soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    staghounds · 13 years ago
    Thank you for this piece, EXCELLENT journalism. If only the experts did as well.

    And thank you for listing and commenting respectfully about the French soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dena Stewart-Gore · 13 years ago
    You ask if the digital camera belonged to a soldier. One way to find out is to order a finger print kit, pull the fingerprints off of it and send it to the FBI. The government fingerprints all federal employees including soldiers and members of the military.
    Just an idea, I thought I'd pass along.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pablo · 13 years ago
    Wow - It's very good to actually read real news, real events. It's pretty sad that the majority media is just some kind of election mouthpiece for Obama, and frankly these kind of stories aren't even aired any more.

    The photography is excellent as well.

    I will tell folks I know about your site and hopefully this will lead to more support.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Micah F. · 13 years ago
    Thank you for what you are doing to bring these stories to us. If i could join you, I would in a moment. Back here in the good old fashioned US of A we no longer have reporters, we have pseudo-celebrity pseudo-journalists for the most part. Again, thank you for this. When all CNN can say al al-Qeuda and Taliban you have shed some much needed light on this. I wish more would read your accounts. I was especially proud of your 'Good War' closing quote. So few fail to realize how dangerous the occupants of our little blue planet are. Even the "Good Guys"! Keep it up, donation coming on payday! McCain-Palin '08 over the Elitist with NO experience!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    cddddeedd · 13 years ago
    I have been there and the story accurately depicts the surobi and uzbin valley areas. Your pictures bring back many memories.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    LIBERTY100 · 13 years ago
    Wow, this is how jouralism should be and was always intended to be. I thought journalism was dead, but you give me hope.
    As a former Army Ranger I am very patriotic and grateful for all our soldiers do. You made me realize that I "MUST"respect the French as they are standing beside us through all of this. I always knew they were our allies but never had real warm fuzzies when I thought about them. Well, I make this vow today. I will recognize and honor the French and others of course. I mention the French because there has always seemed to be an underlying discourse between them and us. You have made me see the error in my way of thinking. I know it was not your purpose, but that is what great journalism does!
    Thanks to all of our allies and a special thanks and god bless to the French, who stand beside us in our fight!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    colagirl · 13 years ago
    Michael--Excellent journalism. Your comment about how you decided that something "didn't feel right" about the visit to Sper Kundy and so you called it off made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Stay safe, please. We need you.
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    ChaoticMom · 13 years ago
    I'm very bummed you aren't going up north. Very little news coming out of there right now, so I find it hard to believe that they are "full". Some other reason, maybe? Seriously. Those guys are "at the end of the earth," in the mountains fighting the good fight. I was very much hoping that if ANYONE would tell their story that it would have been you.

    That said, I am just VERY glad you ARE in Afghanistan. Great reporting.
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    Brooks Imperial · 13 years ago
    How do you sort out the fighters who don't want to just be left alone? How can you end a war while there are still some enemies intent on killing you? The terms of this war are beyond my ability to reason. To fight or not to fight in that place, both cases seem to have fatal flaws. I hope you can sort it out and keep it real. Thank you so much for your unflinching eye.
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    Jim Growney · 13 years ago

    "WOW" is the first reaction I had after reading this. Your tribute to the French troopers at the end was touching. Thank you. They fought a hard fight, died a hard death. You honored that with your post.

    Your dispatch here depicting the situation reveals just a small fraction of how complicated the situation really is. I hope you remain safe, and I hope you drive on, at shedding more light into the challenge this place poses.

    How do we make the politicians understand that this situation is serious? Its a shame you are still having the same BS in your way of imbedding with US forces... ridiculous.

    Be safe! Keep the dispatches coming. Yours is about the only voice we hear that doesn't seem to have some political agenda.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Saber Base · 13 years ago
    I just wanted to say Thank you to all who serve and to the families of those that have fallen. None will be forgotten... Thanks Michael for your continued professionalism.

    You are all in our prayers......always

    SFC D.
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    rickyticky · 13 years ago
    I served with 1/22nd 4th ID, and 17 rd herd ; I would like to see your stories on fox or cnn maybe 60 minutes, You soldier, honor all troops! those who came before, and those who will follow ! A fallen soldier is a fallen brother ! They sit with all those from years gone by ! Keep your head down and watch your six, we need men like you who tell the true stories !
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jamie · 13 years ago
    Mr. Yon- At last I thought I would put something together for you and youƒ??re people to read.

    Firstly I find this article to be, like all the rest biased, you are biased to the extent that when in HIG, Talib or anyone else company you are free and friendly with them. The old adage ƒ??I am invariably of the politics of the people at whose table I sit, or beneath whose roof I sleepƒ?.

    I will presume that most of youƒ??re readers are those that go WOW! And have never completed extensive Opƒ??s whether in Afgha, Iraq, Pakistan or for that matter some of the more colourful countries. You enjoy spattering your audience with military lingo.

    You mention in youƒ??re article here that you were concerned with the afghans getting their money due to the damage, you have taken someone elseƒ??s pictures no matter who they were taken from and splashed your name all over them, how contrite.

    I am at present sitting in the smallest room of the house, reading your report in front of me, in a moment it will be behind me
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kenny Komodo · 13 years ago
    Thank you for a great article. I'm glad that you honored the French soldiers who died that day. I'm not French but seeing that Taliban fighter in French gear was enough to make my blood boil. We have get these guy. You're doing a great job telling the story in Afghanistan. What didn't escape my attention is just how rugged the terrain there is. I'm sure it's even worse then what the pictures make it look. If anyone thinks we can get OBL when he has badlands like this to hide in are delusional.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eric K · 13 years ago
    Thank you for this respectful and accurate story. I served as an Apache Pilot in 2004-2005 and flew over that area of Sarobi many times. The nuances of Afghanistan detailed in your report, as well as the photos you share, take me right back. Unfortunately, as a pilot I was never allowed to leave Bagram (and later Kandahar) Air Field unless I was flying. I never got to see the country from the ground level. As a trained photojournalist, I dream of returning some day soon to experience what I sadly missed, the culture of the "Crossroads of Asia."
    As for the French soldiers in Afghanistan, I can attest to just how brave, dedicated, and professional they all are. They have my utmost respect for the job they did, and continue to do. It was a pleasure working with them and supporting them in their, unfortunately tough and thankless mission. May their departed rest in peace.
    -Eric K, OEF V
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack Sides · 13 years ago
    Thank you for what you do. As a WWII fighter pilot who lost two cousins who were fighter pilots and who was one of 17 of 82 who were replacement P 8 pilots in the 15th AF in Italy who returned I have the utmost respect for those who fight for this country, or for that matter the French whose demise you have chronicled. I have your book, it is hard to read because of my background. May the good Lord keep you safe, we need your insight in these perilous times.
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    Heinrich Stamper · 13 years ago
    Afghans wanting to be left alone to live their lives is understandable. I wouldn't want foreign soldiers dropping in unannounced and scaring my family. But the Taliban and local warlords are using that sentiment to their advantage and roaming the countryside at will since our troops can't be everywhere at once. Which means sooner or later the bucolic Afghans will have to realize they need to unite and get involved or they'll never get rid of foreigners - Taliban or ISAF. Their current attitude reinforces Gen. Kiernan's words about military power not being enough to stabilize Afghanistan.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul S. · 13 years ago
    "I have been there and the story accurately depicts..." (Thank you, cddddeedd) means more to this american civilian than any spin by any mainstream so-called journalist ever could. Your posts are so valuable, Michael; I worry that many will never know any other way. And this is and will be as serious a challenge as serious gets.
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    P4 · 13 years ago
    "The date and time in his view finder was 2008/09/26 at 06:27AM. The date and time programmed into my own camera was 2008/09/26 at 10:24AM. My cameras are set to GMT. It appears that someone had taken the time to program the date and time on this camera. But this is not Afghan time. France is one hour ahead of GMT. Some parts of French-speaking Canada are four hours behind GMT. But none of the ten French soldiers came from Canada."

    Look south, French island in the Caribean sea like Guadeloupe or Martinique and Guyane in South America may fit with the programmed time.

    It's freaky.
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    Cdr. Scott Dudley, U · 13 years ago
    There are war correspondents and there are those who are head and shoulders above the rest. You are clearly in the latter category.
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    Mark Tuma · 13 years ago

    It's not bias to report both sides of a story - it's journalism. I'm surprised that anyone would be so blinkered as to read this report and accuse its author of prejudice or favouring one side.

    As I read it I picked up Michael's desire to tell the truth about what he finds, and the deep conflict within himself about what is good, right and appropriate to publish. I think we should be grateful for such responsible journalism, especially when most of the media seems to like shock and awe reporting, whatever the story.


    Thanks once again for your journalism. I continue to read everything you report with interest and with sadness at the situations in Afghanistan, and the price being paid on both sides.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    apic · 13 years ago
    Thank you Micael for this faithfull report , we are not used to that . Unfortunately many french politicians are mislead by journalists that are far less professionals. Just after the ambush "Paris Match" newspaper sent a team to meet with the ennemy and the parents could see in the newspaper some personnal items such as a watch that the talibans were showing. Rumor says that they paid USD 50k to be able to do this article which was a shame. If they really paid this price it s even more irresponsible. Hard to know the truth.
    Encore merci et bon courage. De oppresso liber
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    The Thunder Run · 13 years ago
    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/14/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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    RWarson · 13 years ago
    The blood-stained realism of this piece is to be commended: Those Westerners who are overly interested in preserving what is, after all, a nomadic culture of questionable value to the "march of progress" ought take a good hard look at exactly what their soldiers are up against. At the risk of sounding too much like a Neanderthal myself, I must ask exactly what's wrong with the expert, controlled use of biochemical agents against mountain-entrenched Afghani terrorists. Might we not save much by way of time, money, and our own soldiers lives simply by fumigating hard-to-reach enemy enclaves (duly evacuated of innocent civilians)? Is a whiff of nerve-gas or dose of bacteria any more or less "beyond the pale" than a pallet of 800 pounders loosed from the belly of a B-52? Essentially uglier than a blast of the Mini-Gun, the detonation of a Tomahawk? I know, I know. "The Geneva Convention says..." Strange thing the Geneva Convention doesn't also say something about ramming hijacked civilian airliners into skyscrapers! As Mr. Bumble might say...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    tmmkkt22 · 13 years ago

    Please consider the OPSEC ramifications regarding this dispatch and the discussion of cell phone signals as described.
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    Tony H · 13 years ago
    Once again Michael puts himself in danger so that the rest of the world, those that care to look for the truth, can sit in the comfort of their homes to read it.

    Thank you Michael. As a long time reader, I look forward to every report, for the enlightenment it brings. I long ago gave up reading press and tv reports. They are all spin, to create sensationalism. You bring us sensational reports.

    God bless those who have died to bring peace. God bless those that do not see how to bring peace. God bless those that do not want peace, but grant them their peace.

    God bless you Michael. stay safe. Trust your instincts.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David Neal · 13 years ago
    I have been following Michael's articles and postings for two years now. I agree with the comments made here about the nature of modern journalism. Michael's work represents real journalism. Most of what passes for journalism today is either quasi-entertainment or political commentary.

    I searched high and low on the internet for the past few years to find the REAL stories about our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan- to find out how the war is really going there, on the ground. I am a history buff, and I knew that the war stories would come out eventually. I figured that with the internet, wouldn't there be something coming out in the rd or 4th year of the war? Well, I found it in Michael's work. Great job, keep it up.

    PS. I've spent a lot of time in France. They aren't so bad. Very proud of their country, not unlike Americans. But they have developed a built-in reluctance towards foreign military intervention as a result of heavy losses incurred defending their former colonies in Algeria and Vietnam. I hope their public will stay behind this mission despite these losses.


    David Neal
    Portland, Oregon
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    Huntress · 13 years ago
    I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.

    "Mr. Yon- At last I thought I would put something together for you and youƒ??re people to read."

    Jamie, Mike's people are smart enough to smell a liar, a fool, and idiot when he makes his presence known through arrogant inane comments that serve only to prove how incapable you are of understanding what Michael wrote. This reader thinks you might want to take the time to educate yourself on the difference between "your" and "you're".

    "I will presume that most of youƒ??re readers are those that go WOW! And have never completed extensive Opƒ??s whether in Afgha, Iraq, Pakistan or for that matter some of the more colourful countries. You enjoy spattering your audience with military lingo."

    YOUR ( not you're) presumptions are wrong. Perhaps you'd be best served not making them--you prove yourself a fool when you do -- more so since you can't seem to grasp the difference between "your" & "you're".

    "You mention in youƒ??re article here that you were concerned with the afghans getting their money due to the damage, you have taken someone elseƒ??s pictures no matter who they were taken from and splashed your name all over them, how contrite"

    This by far is the most inane, ludicrous and nonsensical remark you have made, completely without basis, and solidifying beyond a doubt that you, Jamie, are an unmitigated fool and rather large asshat --- not surprising since you don''t know the difference between "your" & 'you're".

    This "reader" isn't the least bit interested in your ( NOT you're) opinion.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Huntress · 13 years ago
    "Mr. Yon- At last I thought I would put something together for you and youƒ??re people to read."

    Jamie, Mike's people are smart enough to smell a liar, a fool, and idiot when he makes his presence known through arrogant inane comments that serve only to prove how incapable you are of understanding what Michael wrote. This reader thinks you might want to take the time to educate yourself on the difference between "your" and "you're".

    "I will presume that most of youƒ??re readers are those that go WOW! And have never completed extensive Opƒ??s whether in Afgha, Iraq, Pakistan or for that matter some of the more colourful countries. You enjoy spattering your audience with military lingo."

    YOUR ( not you're) presumptions are wrong. Perhaps you'd be best served not making them--you prove yourself a fool when you do -- more so since you can't seem to grasp the difference between "your" & "you're".

    "You mention in youƒ??re article here that you were concerned with the afghans getting their money due to the damage, you have taken someone elseƒ??s pictures no matter who they were taken from and splashed your name all over them, how contrite"

    This by far is the most inane, ludicrous and nonsensical remark you have made, completely without basis, and solidifying beyond a doubt that you, Jamie, are an unmitigated fool and rather large asshat --- not surprising since you don''t know the difference between "your" & 'you're".

    This "reader" isn't the least bit interested in your ( NOT you're) opinion.
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    Dana Lewis - Fox New · 13 years ago
    Super interesting article. I flew over the area of where the French were ambushed with an American General.
    I won't tell you his comments but clearly the insurgents are learning new tactics. Radio silence. Army unit manouvering. They have some new mentors and a new and dangerous edge.
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    Solomon2 · 13 years ago
    These are not jihadi fanatics. They are not Afghan patriots. They are seeking justice for themselves and their families and village. That is a great reason for hope - if they are representative of others who have taken up arms against the Afghan gov't and NATO, then everything needed to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda is contained in this interview.
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    Frenchy · 13 years ago
    Mr Yon, you had a secret report of the battle, why didn't you publish it on your blog? Oups, did it really exist?

    Did you read the interview of the french soldiers engaged and wounded in the french papers?
    no then learn french and read this :
    http://www.valeursactuelles.com/public/valeurs-actuelles/html/fr/articles.php?article_id= 21

    The photo with the insurgent posing with the FAMAS, Mr Yon you didn't know the difference between a Woodland Camo and a french CE unifrorm?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    P4 · 13 years ago
    Afghanistan : op??ration conjointe en vall??e dƒ??Uzbin

    Le 18 octobre 2008, des unit??s des forces nationales de s??curit?? afghanes et du RC-C (Regional Command-Capital) de la FIAS, sous les ordres du g??n??ral Stollsteiner, ont conduit une op??ration conjointe dans le sud de la vall??e dƒ??Uzbin, en coordination ??troite avec les autorit??s afghanes, le commandement r??gional Est et le quartier g??n??ral de la FIAS.

    Lƒ??op??ration avait pour but premier de priver les insurg??s de leur libert?? dƒ??action et de les emp?¦cher de sƒ????tablir durablement dans la zone. Une unit?? de lƒ??arm??e nationale afghane issue du 20 e corps, soutenue par ses mentors am??ricains, a s??curis?? lƒ??unique route de la vall??e, tandis que les appuis a??riens de la FIAS, dont une Gazelle Viviane, assuraient la couverture de lƒ??ensemble du d??ploiement. Situ?? au pied du col permettant lƒ??acc??s du sud de lƒ??Uzbin ?ÿ la province voisine de Laghman, le village de Sper Kunday constituait lƒ??objectif principal.

    A partir du milieu de la matin??e et jusque dans la soir??e, les insurg??s ont effectu?? diff??rentes man?uvres en vue de mener des attaques sur le dispositif, toutes d??jou??es au prix de pertes s??rieuses pour lƒ??adversaire. Les observations initiales font ??tat de 7 tu??s ou bless??s. Le nombre des assaillants touch??s par les tirs dƒ??appui reste ?ÿ d??terminer avec pr??cision.

    Outre lƒ??int??r?¦t tactique de Sper Kunday, il ??tait ??galement n??cessaire de reprendre contact avec la population et ses dirigeants locaux, deux mois apr??s lƒ??embuscade qui a co?¯t?? la vie ?ÿ dix soldats fran??ais.

    Lƒ??arm??e nationale et la police afghanes, imm??diatement suivies de troupes fran??aises, se sont donc d??ploy??es dans le village en tout d??but de matin??e. Le contact ??tabli a tout dƒ??abord permis aux forces de la coalition dƒ??expliquer leur mission et les raisons de leur pr??sence, puis de confirmer que les villageois font lƒ??objet de fortes pressions de la part des insurg??s. Trois maisons ont ainsi ??t?? fouill??es et un suspect interrog??. Enfin, les ??changes ont ??galement port?? sur les besoins des habitants, en vue de mener des actions de coop??ration civilo ƒ?? militaire.

    Cette op??ration sƒ??inscrit dans le cadre des missions de contr??le de zone d??volues ?ÿ chacun des 5 commandements r??gionaux de la FIAS. Elle pr??pare le processus de transfert de responsabilit?? aux forces de s??curit?? afghanes et les conditions n??cessaires ?ÿ lƒ??enregistrement des ??lecteurs, qui d??bute le 5 novembre 2008 dans le district de Surobi.

    Sources : EMA
    Droits : Minist??re de la d??fense/ECPAD

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    Marie Claude franchi · 13 years ago
    iran, afghanistan: ƒ??Afghan insurgent leader protected by Teheranƒ??

    A confidential military report made public last Monday charges Iran offered protection to an Afghan insurgent leader who claimed responsibility for an August ambush that killed 10 French soldiers.

    The report by Spainƒ??s CIFAS military intelligence agency, which was obtained by Cadena Ser radio and posted on the stationƒ??s website, said Gulbuddin Hekmatyar enjoyed ƒ??total freedomƒ? when he lived at a Teheran hotel in 2005 -- with his security provided by the Iranian government.
    He met daily with many unidentified individuals while in Teheran, added the report, which was dated August 9, 2005, according to Cadena Ser.
    Hekmatyar, who briefly served as prime minister during Afghanistanƒ??s civil war in the 1990s, is considered one of the countryƒ??s most radical warlords who is already known to have sought refuge in Iran between 1996 and 2002.
    The United States has offered a multi-million-dollar reward for his capture.
    He recently said in a video message that his faction had carried out an ambush on August 18 that killed 10 French soldiers in Sarabi, to the east of the Afghan capital Kabul.
    The incident, in which 21 troops were also wounded, was the deadliest ground attack on international troops since their 2001 dispatch to Afghanistan to oust the hardline Taliban regime.
    Cadena Ser did not say how it obtained the report, which apparently was marked confidential and bore the seal of Spainƒ??s Defense Ministry.
    The radio station also said the intelligence agency suspects that Teheran supplied an allied terrorist group with US-made Stinger missile launchers.
    Another report claims Iranian agents in April 2005 bought ƒ??several Stinger missile systemsƒ? from an Afghan arms dealer, Cadena Ser said.
    ƒ??Iran buys weapons to then transfer them to a third party, probably Iranian terrorist groupsƒ?, it alleged.
    The station recently published yet another confidential defense report dated the same year claiming Pakistanƒ??s spy service helped arm Taliban insurgents in 2005 to carry out assassination attempts against the Afghan government.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/k4LDJ iEFJYXxnMSKh
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Marie Claude franchi · 13 years ago
    where did you see in the polls that the Frenchs are to get the hell out of afghanistan ?

    the national assembly voted 4 vs 210 for staying in Afghanistan
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    Dennis M · 13 years ago
    The date/time on the camera isn't sure proof of its origin, of course, BUT....

    with the internet, gear can be ordered worldwide. Because of the U.S. Army/Navy postal system, it's easy for our troops to order stuff into country. The foreign troops that I served with (mostly Eastern European) preferred to order their electronics through us because it was cheaper and quicker. Using their own resources, the shipping became prohibitive.

    If these soldiers were around U.S. troops very much, the camera may have been ordered through a U.S. company.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alex · 13 years ago
    Very good article and truly interesting trip you took there ... Just to bring some precisons, we have among the most restrictive ROE in Afghanistan, therefore you were not in danger of being shot by a French airplane or Milan missile while having your talk on the hill. Many in the army are begging to have these rules changed as we are often restricted to engage insurgents if they hide inside civilian buildings or in mosqs. It is a truly difficult war to win, especially if you want at the same time putting down the insurgency and winning the hearts and minds ... I can tell you this is not an easy war for the French troops that receive very little support at home as memories from the Algerian war are still very strong.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    from the attic · 13 years ago
    WTF what are you talking about ? your deep thoughts, I suppose all shaped through MSM clich??s

    The french soldiers are supported by their population, not by the lefties medias, but it's the same in the US for the american soldiers, so get a clue, and don't come over unless you have FACTS
    So far the french soldiers have pointed quite clearly when the american headquaters let them do

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Asif A · 13 years ago
    Its a famous maxim "Only Dog and Englishmen go out in the sun", although I appreciate your work, its painstaking but who would be fool enough to go to a war-tron country like Afghanistan. So I guess only CIA, MOSSAD & MI5 could go to Afghanistan in the sun.

    This "analysis" comes from the "words" you used.
    Be careful buddy,
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Huntress · 13 years ago
    Check out the photo of the backside of journalist :>)

    For more from Tim, please read "Shakedown"
    Then go check out their blog. They are doing some incredible work in AFG.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gismo Fly · 13 years ago
    Dear Michael,

    Thanks for a totally absorbing article. I am dissapointed by the petty criticism from your French readers. The death of those brave soldiers is painful to us all but we must learn what happend and come up wiser against a clever enemy.

    I would like to see a bigger commitment by the French in this war. Given public opinion in France this will be difficult. I would like the Germans to get involved rather than just escort NGO's in areas made safer by the Americans and British. Again, public opinion I suppose.

    Take care, Michael. You are very special to a great lot of people.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    the frog patriot · 12 years ago
    " if they surrender, will the alliance hold?"

    OK, that word, you couldn't help it, it's carved in your brain and tied to the French, yeah, some machiavellian perverts did a good job in Bush administration (ie Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld Powell, Rove...)

    now historical reality is a bit different, just read the right archives
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thomas · 12 years ago
    U is taliban ???
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    LadyLiberty · 12 years ago
    A "relative handful of terrorists" should be beaten by brainpower on our terms and conditions, not theirs. We flush them out; we don't get sucked in. Iraq was strategic and necessary. We should've finished that one properly, not started this one. The Dems can't seem to get anything right but since they're the only ones who don't see that, they keep going for more of the same. The totalitarian impulse of the left.

    This is India's back yard. We leave; the problems aren't going away. We stay; same outcome. Some people have made it clear they are going to live out their lives in squalor and warfare. We decide now how they aren't gong to bring us down. The Indians should do the same.

    We would like things to be different. They will not be. Not there anyway.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan Fraser · 12 years ago
    As a soldier, I find the display of the property of killed enemy gross. Particularly so when it is personal equipment that is covered on the Geneva Convention. Uniforms, boots and personal items of a non-combat purpose remain the property of an enemy solider even in death. Taliban wearing of French uniforms instills me with a "terrible resolve". Keep dispalying proproganga like that and NATO may just start nuking those hills you all hide in. Jumpign around like little monkeys in stolen uniforms
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chris Carpenter · 11 years ago
    I used to travel the Jbad Kabul Highway about every week or two during my time there. There was a spot just east of Sarobi where someone used to RPG civilian fuel tankers from the high ground across the river. Not sure if they were just bandits exacting a highway toll on someone who refused to pay or if it was HIG or what. Anyway, the resulting chaos was a traffic jam for miles in both directions. I used to have to get out on foot and get cars to move out of the way so our convoy could get through. Then I have a story I call the "ghost truck of Sorobi", but that had more to do with incompetent officers than the town itself. In any event, it would be too long to tell here. Great story Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    G. Hickman · 11 years ago
    Great journalism. Those pics bring back some memories. Sarobi was one of our ANP mentoring districts if I recall correctly. We were based out of FOB OE, in 2007, when the ANP mission first came down the line.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Saifullah Khan Mahsu · 11 years ago
    As always a great piece Mike. Your description of the different groups that are branded as Taliban is absolutely correct. Keep the good work up and stay safe !
  • This commment is unpublished.
    erica · 10 years ago
    its been inpiring to know that a real journalism should undergo such real situation,i have been an aspiring journalist once to bring real happenings of the world,i am so idealistic of people like you bravery,honesty and intellegence are the best thing to be describe.if a chance would come i would do so,good and keep safe to your missions.

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