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SEVEN

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Left seat Pilot Thomas Sonne; Right seat: Major Bill Tice.

Kandahar, Afghanistan
10 February 2010

American forces are stationed at bases far and wide around Afghanistan.  Some bases are like towns, such as Camp Bastion, Kandahar Airfield, and Bagram Airfield.  But mostly they are small, often occupied by only a handful of troops.

Logistics into Afghanistan is a nightmare, and it only gets worse after you cross the border from the North or from Pakistan. By comparison, Iraq “logs” was like a run to a convenience store down the road.  Afghan logs are more like driving from Miami to Seattle for grocery shopping, and then driving the groceries back to Miami while under threat of attack.  Not a speck of exaggeration in that statement.  Enemy logs interdiction was a large constituent of the Soviet defeat, despite that the Soviet Union comprised the entire northern border of Afghanistan.  When the Soviet hammer tried to crack the Afghan rock, the hammer shattered.  The Soviets can easily put people in space and keep them there, but they couldn’t handle backdoor logistics during their Afghan war.  It’s easier to keep people in space than to supply our war here.

Read more: SEVEN

Special Delivery

61 Comments

Kandahar, Afghanistan
08 February 2010

American troops are spread widely across Afghanistan.  Some are remote and accessibility is difficult.  In 2008, I was with six soldiers in Zabul Province who didn’t even get mail for three months.  They had no email.  They were on the moon.  Six courageous men, in the middle of nowhere, and their nearest backup was a small Special Forces team about five hours away.  Resupply to these small outposts is crucial, difficult, and would require major effort by ground.  Enter the United States Air Force.

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Entrega Especial

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Translation by J. Dale

Kandahar, Afganistán
8 de Febrero, 2010

Tropas Estadounidenses estan desplegadas extensamente a través de Afganistán. Ciertas zonas son remotas y la accesibilidad es difícil. En el 2008, yo estuve con seis soldados en la Provincia de Zabul que ni siquiera recibieron correo por tres meses. No tenian correo electrónico. Ellos estaban en la Luna. Seis hombres valientes, en el medio de la nada, y su relevo más cercano era un pequeño equipo de Fuerzas Especiales a cinco horas de camino. El reabastecer para estos pequeños campos aislados es crucial, difícil, y requerie un tremendo esfuerzo por tierra. Aquí es donde entra a la escena la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos.

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Spitting Cobra

87 Comments

15 January 2010

Cobra Battery at FOB Frontenac
Arghandab, Afghanistan

Artillery is called “The King of Battle.”  When it comes to the delivery of force, probably nothing outside of nuclear weapons can outmatch the sustained delivery of extreme brutality.  Cannons also can deliver small atomic weapons.

Read more: Spitting Cobra

Canadian Cover Up?

61 Comments

04 January 2010

(Unfortunately, this news comes as I wait to board a flight from Hong Kong to the United States.  It must be written quickly and without editing.)

A reporter at Canwest News Service emailed Saturday asking for information on the four Canadian soldiers and the journalist who were killed on December 30 in Afghanistan.  I supplied a portion of the unpublicized information, and the reporter emailed Sunday that the Canadian military is “trying to suppress our telling of your information.”

The reporter also wrote, “While the Canadian military confirmed to me much of the information you provided, they are trying to prevent us from publishing it, saying it would breach our agency's embedding agreement.”

There is nothing classified or sensitive about the information supplied to Canwest.  This smells of a classic cover-up that has nothing to do with winning or losing the war, but more likely something to do with saving embarrassment.

Read more: Canadian Cover Up?

Into Thine Hand I Commit My Spirit

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Arghandab, Afghanistan
New Year's Eve, 2009

On this small base surrounded by a mixture of enemy and friendly territory, a memorial has been erected just next to the Chapel.  Inside the tepee are 21 photos of 21 soldiers killed during the first months of a year-long tour of duty.  The fallen will belong forever to the honor rolls of the 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and they will join the sacred list of names of those who have given their lives in service of the United States of America.

Read more: Into Thine Hand I Commit My Spirit

Christmas message from General Petraeus

11 Comments

24 December 2009

Many people know that General Petraeus is one of finest Americans ever minted.  To me, General Petraeus is a strategic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  If General Petraeus didn't show up, we likely would have flown our Iraq efforts into a mountain.  We now have a solid chance for success in Afghanistan.

I emailed asking for General Petraeus to say something to our folks for Christmas.  General Petraeus responded with this excellent message:

Read more: Christmas message from General Petraeus

General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey Cancels Trip to Cuba

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Published: 22 December 2009
By Barry McCaffrey (General Ret.)

Dr Wayne Smith
Center for International Policy 22 December 2009
1717 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC. 20036

Wayne,

Just got in last night to read the Reuters reports that Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez denounced President Obama at the Copenhagen Conference as an  "imperial and arrogant  liar" in the most vile and personal terms imaginable.

The Foreign Minister could not have borrowed talking points from Cuba's worst enemies to more effectively harm the country's future economic and political  interests.

The AP wires also note Raul Castro mentioned Cuba's recent "war games" to prepare for US invasion. What a laughable assertion of an external US military threat.

Read more: General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey Cancels Trip to Cuba

Brian Williams to the Troops

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22 December 2009
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Brian Williams from NBC emailed to me something for the troops.  Brian is a Great American.

I was in Afghanistan about two months ago, and as usual the best part of the trip were the Americans in uniform who we met along the way.  I think about all of you every day.  I tell my civilian friends about you, and about what I've seen.  They all know that you are the people I admire most.  We toasted all of those deployed overseas at our Thanksgiving table, and we will on Christmas Day and on New Year's Eve.  I appreciate your service, and we appreciate our freedom.

We owe you all a staggering debt.

For now, Happy Holidays and the blessings of the season to you all.

 

Brian Williams

 

As Christmas Approaches

31 Comments

20 December 2009
Arghandab, Afghanistan

As Christmas approaches, many people are thinking about the troops, who in turn are thinking about loved ones at home.  Cards and letters are tacked up on many walls.  The favorites are from the little kids, with questions like, "How do you go to the bathroom?"  "Can you eat dinner?"  "Does it hurt to get shooted?"  It goes on.

I emailed to Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger, asking if he had any words for the troops this Christmas.  Jeff came right back with this awesome letter:

Michael,

As you make your rounds over there, please to remind them that we know they are there and appreciate their performing their duty in such a magnificent manner.

Jeff

Then CSM Mellinger writes:

I awoke this Saturday morning at PT time (0430), and looked at my surroundings.  The worst winter storm in DC for a number of years had arrived in force.  Snow, and lots of it.  Roads are closed, planes are grounded, and people are huddled comfortably inside their homes or foolishly out trying to learn how to drive in snow.

Read more: As Christmas Approaches

Arghandab & The Battle for Kandahar

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image001_730

13 December 2009
Kandahar, Afghanistan

People are confused about the war.  The situation is difficult to resolve even for those who are here.  For most of us, the conflict remains out of focus, lacking reference of almost any sort.  Vertigo leaves us seeking orientation from places like Vietnam—where most of us never have been.  So sad are our motley pundits-cum-navigators that those who have never have been to Afghanistan or Vietnam shamelessly use one to reference the other.  We saw this in Iraq.

The most we can do is pay attention, study hard, and try to bring something into focus that is always rolling, yawing, and seemingly changing course randomly, in more dimensions than even astronauts must consider.  All while gauging dozens of factors, such as Afghan Opinion, Coalition Will, Enemy Will and Capacity, Resources, Regional Actors (and, of course, the Thoroughly Unexpected).  Nobody will ever understand all these dynamic factors and track them at once and through time.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that a tiger doesn’t need to completely understand the jungle to survive, navigate, and then dominate.  It is not necessary to know every anthropological and historical nuance of the people here.  If that were the case, our Coalition of over forty nations would not exist.   More important is to realize that they are humans like us.  They get hungry, happy, sad, and angry; they make friends and enemies (to the Nth degree); they are neither supermen nor vermin.  They’re just people.

But it always helps to know as much as you can.  This will take much time, many dispatches, and hard, dangerous work.  Let’s get started.

Read more: Arghandab & The Battle for Kandahar

First December Report From Afghanistan

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Now BayNews9 story.

Local man reports on troop morale in Afghanistan
Sunday, December 6, 2009

(Bay News 9) -- For the past five years Winter Haven native and former Green Beret Michael Yon has been covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an independent journalist.

A couple of days ago Bay News 9 spoke with him on a Skype connection to Afghanistan.

Yon has been reporting for years that the U.S. risked losing the war there.

Read more: First December Report From Afghanistan

FYI: Paperwork for Afghanistan Media Embed

12 Comments

17 November 2009

There has been much curiosity about the procedures involved during the embed process.  The process is constantly changing, and is different for Iraq than for Afghanistan.  A Philippines embed is different still, and requires embassy approval because, am told, the State department is worried about what one might say.  In Afghanistan, the process with the British and Lithuanians also varies.  The process can be dramatically different for powerful media outlets, who often come in on "junkets."  In Iraq, in 2005, saw CNN have two helicopters dedicated to it for a day in Diyala Province.  (I went with them.)

Read more: FYI: Paperwork for Afghanistan Media Embed

Hostages

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Michael Yon
16 November 2009

When New York Times journalist David Rohde was kidnapped last year in Afghanistan, the company engaged in a painstaking effort to squash the story. They succeeded in persuading major media who learned of the kidnapping to keep quiet. The cover-up was so good that a New York Times reporter I spoke with in December 2008, while she and I joined Secretary Gates on a trip through Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and back to the United States, had not heard about the David Rohde kidnapping.

The New York Times openly agrees that publishing such articles increases the peril to the lives of hostages, yet it published details about a British couple being held hostage in Somalia, and thus increased the value of the hostages to the kidnappers.

Some months after Mr. Rohde’s kidnapping started leaking, I published a generic blurb about the case, but made sure none of the information was new.

Read more: Hostages

Japanese Aid to Afghanistan II

1 Comment

12 November 2009

I asked General David Petraeus, General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, about the Japanese decisions on Afghanistan.  (The Japanese plan to recall their refueling capacity but to add $5 billion dollars in development aid over five years.)  All three responded.  This from Geoff Morrell, who is the spokesman for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

"We welcome Japan's additional contribution and its continued partnership in the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan."

Answers from Generals Petraeus and McCaffrey are here.

 

Japanese Aid to Afghanistan

17 Comments

Published: 12 November 2009
By Michael Yon

Kathmandu, Nepal — The Japanese are pulling naval assets from the fight in Afghanistan, but they are adding assets in another category. I asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (who has not responded), Gen. David Petraeus, and Gen. (ret.) Barry McCaffrey to comment on this report:

Japan plans additional $5 billion for Afghanistan
By JAY ALABASTER (AP)

TOKYO — Japan on Tuesday announced $5 billion in fresh aid to Afghanistan even as it plans to bring home refueling ships supporting U.S.-led forces there. The pledge comes just days before President Barack Obama arrives in Tokyo for talks that are sure to focus on the countries' military alliance.

The announcement appears to be a way for Japan, which is barred from sending troops for combat by its pacifist constitution, to show support for Afghanistan's reconstruction while Obama reviews his options for a new strategy in the conflict.

Read more: Japanese Aid to Afghanistan

Ambush of the Common Sort

11 Comments

08 November 2009

Got a ping today about an attack on the road between Jalalabad and Kabul.  It's a dangerous road and I don't like to drive it.  The source has always been reliable, so I pinged Tim Lynch (who often is on that road), and Tim just sent these pics and a quick narrative.  (Unedited, and my post also coming via Blackberry.)  Tim writes:

The ambush happened around 0845 or so on the west side of the Duranta Tunnel.  Steve and I rolled out to look - the fuel convoy had security escorts from Compass security and they plus some ANP are who you see up in the ridges.  Three tankers were burning and three more were shot up and leaking fuel all over the place.  There was a section of OH-58's up and after about 20 minutes of figuring out who was who on the ground they started in on the bad guys with rockets and mini gun.

Read more: Ambush of the Common Sort

Smithsonian Air&Space on Kopp-Etchells Effect

10 Comments

November 04, 2009

Helo Halo

Luminous halos twirled above a Boeing CH-47 Chinook on a recent night around 11:30 p.m. local time at Forward Operating Base Jackson in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as helicopters ferried casualties and supplies in and out of the base. The photographer was independent journalist Michael Yon, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who has covered Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Philippines with a camera. Helicopter pilots don't have a name for the effect, but one explained to Yon, "Basically it is a result of static electricity created by friction as...dissimilar material strike against each other. In this case, titanium/nickel blades moving through the air and dust." Yon says, however, that a researcher studying helicopter brownout emailed him to say that scientists are not 100 percent sure what causes the effect. Depending on the viewing angle, it creates dazzling little galaxies. An even longer exposure reveals stars and another aircraft marked by a string of lights at upper left of center; Yon suspects this aircraft was a Predator or Reaper UAV, which, unlike manned military aircraft, fly with their lights on in the Afghan night to avoid collisions. Yon, who made these shots with a Canon 5D Mark II with a 50 mm lens at an ISO of 800, claims that the night was far darker than his sensitive camera conveys, as evidenced by the green chemlights on the ground to guide the pilots. He was moved to create a name, the Kopp-Etchells Effect, for the rotor phenomenon to honor a pair of fallen soldiers, U.S. Army Corporal Benjamin Kopp and British Army Corporal Joseph Etchells, who died one day apart in July after fierce fighting in Helmand (Kopp had been evacuated to the U.S. before he died). "The tent in the foreground is a medical tent," says Yon, "so that casualties can be kept in a tent until the last minute. A substantial number of British casualties in Helmand have been lifted off of this exact spot...because this is probably either the most dangerous place in Afghanistan, or nearly the most dangerous."

 

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