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The Village


Some of the Navy folks talked about bringing out a veterinarian.

08 July 2009

(Filed from Afghanistan)

The fight in the southern Philippines varies in intensity and technique.  Commanders in the AFP (Armed Forces Philippines) will say that the fight consists of about 80% carrot and 20% stick.  The relationship between U.S. and AFP forces seems good but there are differences of opinion.  Our folks fully understand the 80% part, but on the 20% we often know the whereabouts of the enemy and would like to see faster action.  Nevertheless, my gut instinct after having a tour about the place is that progress is being made.  A guerrilla commander told me that he had been fighting since 1976, but came out of the jungles with 34 fighters on 20 April this year.  Publicly it’s called a “surrender,” but on the ground it seemed more like a mutual agreement to stop fighting and do something constructive.

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Philippines: Some Notes, Thoughts, and Observations


06 June 2009
Filed From Chaghcharan, Afghanistan


Until recently, Afghanistan was called “The Forgotten War.” The dramatic domestic, regional, and international politics of the Iraq war largely eclipsed the fact that our people were fighting just as hard in Afghanistan. Although we’re paying attention to AfPak now, off the radar screen an important and related fight has been unfolding in the Philippines.

Read more: Philippines: Some Notes, Thoughts, and Observations

Lithuanians on the Moon


Lithuanians on the Moon

Speaking the Language

Mohammad Jan Kendewalli points to ‘nearby’ villages.

01 July 2009
Chaghcharan, Ghor Province, Afghanistan

Lithuanian Lieutenant Marius Varna walked me around the perimeter of the small camp and we scanned the massive desolation of Afghanistan.  The expanses, the dust, and the overwhelming sensation of brown and near-absence of refreshing green, under blue skies and squinting-bright sun.  Only a handful of scrubby trees to be seen.   One mountain wore a tint of green, as if it had been spray-painted from too far.  Varna said it had sprouted after a rain a few weeks ago.

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Lithuanians in Afghanistan


29 June 2009
Chaghcharan, Ghor Province

Kabul has changed.  In recent years the roads were often clogged with military convoys, filling the town with aggravations and dangers often caused by the mere presence of large numbers of soldiers in proximity to the dusty beehive called Kabul.  Yesterday, in a drive around the city, the only obvious presence was that of the ANA and ANP (Afghan National Army and Police).  The few U.S. or other soldiers who could be seen were driving in armored civilian SUVs.

Read more: Lithuanians in Afghanistan

Sean Pillai interviews Jeff Mellinger

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27 June 2009
Kabul, Afghanistan

The clearest sign that I am back in Afghanistan is that the electricity is out again.  Other than that, the day is bright, shiny and cool in Kabul.

While reading/listening through the morning news, this excellent interview with Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger popped up.  The interview was conducted by Sean Pillai.

CSM Mellinger has spent about 37 years in the United States Army.  He was the single most knowledgeable soldier I ever met when it comes to the ground war in Iraq.  He's a walking encyclopedia who spent more time on those hot, dangerous streets than most grunts.   CSM Mellinger gained immense respect from the combat troops.  He only had two bosses in Iraq.  The first was General Casey, and the second was General Petraeus, Jeff Mellinger didn't like office life.  He liked to walk the line.

The electricity is back on, so this message can now get back to you.


The Road to Hell: Part II


27 June 2009

With so many contractors, journalists, and even tourists floating around Afghanistan, some are bound to be kidnapped.  The recent escape by David Rohde provides a happy conclusion, though these things often end up with a bullet in the head, or a head sawed off for all to see.  Kidnappings are so common in Afghanistan that most barely make the news.

The New York Times and big media outlets are being blamed for suppressing the story and thereby giving special treatment to one of their own.  It’s clear that they did give special treatment to one of their own.  In fact, when police lose an officer, they also put special emphasis on the crime, and when soldiers lose one of their own, they also put special emphasis on rescue.  Iraqi soldiers who helped us locate American soldiers were sometimes upset that we barely lifted a finger when their own were captured and brutally tortured.  That the New York Times gave special treatment to one of its own is a fact.  That the U.S. military does the same is a fact.  Maybe it’s human nature.

Read more: The Road to Hell: Part II

Michael Jackson


News of Mr. Jackson's death is sweeping around the world.  Having worked for Mr. Jackson at his Neverland Ranch, I had the feeling that he was a hostage to his success.  Finally, the King of Pop will find peace that he might never have gotten in life.

Very Respectfully,

Michael Yon

David Rohde Escapes


21 June 2009

The excellent reporter David Rohde has escaped his kidnappers.  My latest word on Mr. Rohde came on about June 1 during a trip with Secretary Gates, when a very well placed source told me in Singapore that the Pentagon had no word on the whereabouts or condition of David Rohde.  I first heard about the escape this morning subsequent an interview request to me from the Washington Post.

Read more: David Rohde Escapes

The Iranian Time Bomb

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20 June 2009

Nearly two years ago, I read the book "The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots' Quest for Destruction," by Michael Ledeen.  In light of today's events in Iran, Mr. Ledeen's words are proving accurate.  This is especially so in regard to internal instability.  Mr. Ledeen himself is a lightning rod for controversy but I will say this: he's a smart man whom I've spent many hours talking with on many occasions.  His eldest son served two tours as a Marine in Anbar Province, Iraq.  His daughter spends more time downrange than most soldiers.  Mr. Ledeen's words are often controversial, but he's true blue American and always worth listening to.

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Southern Philippines


17 June 2009

Small teams of American troops are spread across many locations in the southern Philippines.  Each team works side-by-side with Filipino counterparts.  The jobs vary.  Navy SEALs and Special Boat Teams often support the AFP (Armed Forces Philippines) on actual operations.   I have been briefed on some of these operations -- though without the physical access one gets in Iraq or Afghanistan.  One truism of embedding: the more they are fighting, the closer the writer is welcome to get, right up into the middle.

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Green Beret Loses Race and Wins a Battle


First published: 10 June 2009
Mindanao Island, Philippines

After one week of close access to some key players in this conflict, I can make one certain statement: This is a complex war. As for the complexity of the human terrain, the Philippines is the “Afghanistan of the Sea.” There are great differences, of course. The Republic of the Philippines is a functioning democracy with a professional military and it’s not bordering Pakistan and Iran, yet the human terrain here is far more complex than that of Iraq or even Afghanistan. Physical terrain shapes human terrain. Afghanistan has deserts, mountains and valleys, while this place has the sea, thousands of islands, and mountains and valleys. Physical barriers create separate languages and cultures.

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05 June 2009

This is the nicest war I’ve ever been to. Outside Magazine seems to think the same:

Read more: Jolo



03 June 2009

The southern Philippines has been a festering bed for international terrorists for decades.  Direct links with al Qaeda and associated groups, such as Jemaah Islamiya (JI), are conclusively established.  These groups are collectively responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people from dozens of countries.  JI, for instance, was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, including my friend Beata Pawlak.

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Close Combat


02 June 2009

U.S. and Philippine troops are closely cooperating in the fight against terrorists.  After duty, these men practice knife fighting and “Arnis.”  Arnis is a form of stick fighting popular in the Philippines.

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U.S. Navy in the Philippines

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02 June 2009

Members of “Special Boat Team 12” from Coronado preparing for work earlier today.  The Philippine armed forces are hard at work in the battle against international terrorists.  They are making progress.  Stay tuned.  I’m currently with U.S. and Philippine forces.

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Secretary Gates in Singapore


01 June 2009
Manila, Philippines

The Shangri-La security dialogue is over.  Bigwigs from all over the region came to the conference, including Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  All the major media outlets piled in, such as the New York Times, AP, and dozens of others from Asia, Europe, and the United States.  The dialogue is already well covered in the media, so I’ll write mostly about topics that likely will not make the press.

One matter that you will see in the press is that North Korea is the elephant in the room. Secretary Gates has made it clear that we have no intention of rewarding bad behavior, as we have done in the past with North Korea.  Many readers seem to hold a special disdain for President Obama, and I actively campaigned for McCain, but I get the feeling that Obama is tougher and proving wiser than many people seem to think.  I do not detect that we are slinking away from North Korea.  It seems as though we are going to have some sort of showdown, which hopefully will all be through diplomacy.  I heard Secretary Gates say that a nuclear armed North Korea is not in the cards.  (Not verbatim but that was the gist.)

Read more: Secretary Gates in Singapore

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