Michael's Dispatches

Japanese Aid to Afghanistan


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

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.

General Petraeus responded: “It reflects a significant commitment, one that will provide important resources to Afghanistan during an important period.”

General McCaffrey responded:


The Japanese commitment of $5 billion in aid to Afghanistan coming just prior to President Obama's visit to Tokyo is a welcome signal of financial support for Washington.

Our Allies in Afghanistan are headed for the door. The Canadians and Dutch have already said they will withdraw troops in the coming 24 months. The Germans are of dubious value with their constricting rules of engagement. Japan itself has announced it will end its Indian Ocean refueling mission. Only the courageous Brits are there in any strength with the will to fight.

The Japanese constitution and their political legacy from WWII make them literally worthless as a deployed ground combat military force. In Iraq they were incapable of even defending themselves with their modest troop commitment. Therefore, this significant financial support during a Japanese financial recession is a positive outreach for this critical ally.

I am very interested to hear the thoughts of Secretary Gates. The Japanese decision is significant and will affect the war. I suspect the Canadian decision is mostly (but not totally) “final.” Canadian soldiers earned a hard reputation the hard way. They get respect, but the Canadian government is not to be taken seriously. The Dutch need to stay in the fight. Their contribution is crucial. The Germans will get whipped to pieces, in my judgment, but the Dutch need to stay with the winning team — and they can. General McCaffrey wrote, “Only the courageous Brits are there in any strength with the will to fight.” Well, there are some others who will fight, but the Brits definitely get huge respect. The Aussies, in their tiny numbers, will fight. The Danes and the Dutch will fight, as will the Canadians if given the chance.

Japanese financial aid already has been very helpful to Afghanistan; I have seen its positive effects. The previous Japanese aid package that is nearly spent was worth $2 billion. (Japanese officials told me some months ago that they had spent $1.8 billion and had $200 million left in the fund.) The injection of another $5 billion in development money is a very good thing.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    JackAce · 10 years ago
    no offence but when are we going to see some real articles from you again. as of late we've only seen long winded and repetitive posts bashing the British media corps or reposted stuff from your archives or other journalists. What gives? I come to this site every day in hopes of seeing something new but over the past month or so my hope that I’ll see some quality reporting being done has slowly waned :sad:
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    Gil · 10 years ago
    Um, no offense but if you followed Michael's twitter and read the article you would know that he is in Nepal at a conference. Also this article is written by Michael. He posted it here and I also read it over on NRO. Cut the man some slack, he'll get back to the war it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
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    Disharmony · 10 years ago
    I am not quite sure what your goal with the reporting is, but as of late it has seemed as you do your best to alienate any ISAF support there might still be around, byt going full out either calling the ISAF troops cowards and incompetent, or just ignoring them completely. You hardly mention a word of their contribution, and when you do it's mostly in degorative terms. (Even though you have actually used some of the ISAF resources in order to get to the places you are reporting from.)

    It is certain indeed that some of the ISAF troops are not exactly up there fighting alongside brits and americans, but without them the task for those troops would be even harder, since the job they do, or try to do atleast, to keep the areas behind the lines somewhat in order, would fall upon more american and british troops if the ISAF troops were not there. More resources would be needed from the troops in the frontline to be spent on policing the rear areas.

    Also it seems like you think every ISAF troop there is going to pull out any moment sooner or later, well on that part you're wrong. I live in a nation who contributes to the ISAF mission down there, at the moment we're going through a lot of changes with our military, moving from a conscription military to a more professional type of army. Recruitment posters are upp all over the place, some of them regarding Afghanistan and some of other places.

    Even though there is a wild debate here on where to stand in Afghanistan, so far there has been little talk here about removing the troops, more the opposite, of actually increasing the troops we have down there.

    I personally am for it, but the more I keep reading on sites like this, about how we supposedly do just about nothing there, and the way americans and british seem to indulging in referring to us as euro-trash and what not, the more I am thinking we should just leave you guys to fight this all on your own, since you don't seem to be wanting our help, or be able to see that some nations do not quite have the capabilities that the US or UK have in order to have a troop presence down there.
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    Geez · 10 years ago
    I am wondering the same thing as JackAce. It appears the money to cover the war effort must have run out as has been mentioned numerous times. Travel money appears to be in place though.
    I also miss the reporting. I have bought the book, but not made a direct contribution. Maybe an affiliation of some sort is in order.Press releases are available from many sources.
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    toxicseagull · 10 years ago
    he is simply reporting what the General said and frankly its true. the germans are hugely restricted and the dutch and canadians are pulling out. there is nothing he has posted that is wrong.

    however he does not ignore ISAF contributions, have you not read the lithuanian pieces? or his support of the dutch and canadian troops in mentioned throughout articles?

    oh and no-one has enough troops in Afghan, that is arguably part of the problem.
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    Spratico · 10 years ago
    Has Michael's reporting hit home finally? It seems as though pacifists have infiltrated his website. Good. If hearing a real honest report from the war hurts and is offensive, tough!!!! Get over it. Michael never, ever, reported about "euro trash", only that some governments are unwilling to let their troops actually fight. The Danes, Dutch, Brits, Aussies, Canadians, Lithuanians, are doing a great job because they are allowed to act. You cannot go into combat and fight a war with weak ROE's. The aid from Japan is good news. Hopefully some of the money can be spent on buying some choppers for the Brits. Sorry, I love the Brits, but seeing the way they're guys are treated by their government is a disgrace. My heart goes out the guys out their, especially the 2 Rifles. I wish our president (Obama) would make a decision and actually support our guys and send the troops requested by McChyrystal. The Pakistanis are actually doing something finally, but if we don't have more troops on the border with Pakistan, they're liable to push a bunch of bad guys into an under-defended Afghanistan border region. Hey, Obama, DO SOMETHING!!!

    Thanks for the report, Michael!
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    kingsownscotborderer · 10 years ago

    In terms of aid spending, have you in your travels come across a fellow American called Greg Mortensen who has founded a charity to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan? If so, would you not agree that his efforts Dollar for Dollar are many times more effective than the billions being spent by the various governments?

    This story relates to a school south of Kabul, built by the locals was threatened with closure by the Taliban. The school teacher got on his bike and spoke with the leader of the local militia Taliban whose daughters were at the school. The upshot was that the first lot of Taliban were ousted forcefully, and the school opened again. Oh, and his schools tend to cost about USD 50,000, but then Greg does not demand to stay in 5 star hotels either.

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    VTHokie · 10 years ago
    First off, keep it up Michael. It's good to get the information you bring straight form the horse's mouth, so to speak.

    No, to some of the previous posts... try some reading, not article skimming, but real reading. You'll notice that Michael is simply reporting comments sent to him, but then follows it up by COMMENDING the troops of non-US/UK militaries. Hell there were a whole series of articles on the Lithuanians and much mention of the Danes. Sorry, but a little reading comprehension would quickly show that it is the various governments that he criticizes, not the troops.

    If you are bent up about the comments on the German contribution... get over it. Look into the tankers that were bombed a month or so back. There were many other news sources commenting on the German ROE.

    Keep it up Michael, being totally freelance makes you much more trustworthy IMHO.
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    Jan D. · 10 years ago
    Re JackAce what is wrong with you?! Grow up. I don't believe the world revolves around you waiting at your desk every day for Michael's dispatches. For a change of focus, recommend a trip to www.anysoldier.com.
    Re Bashing It Around. Being new to this site I recently spent time reading Michael's old dispatches and my reading experience was totally different than yours. Quite the contrary. I did not experience any bashing whatsoever. And I marveled at his ability to clearly and sensitively report the raw news, photos and all. We should all do so well. After reading Michael's dispatches from the front lines, I read a comment from a friend or family member beckoning him to please return home - that he'd been out there long enough. Exactly my sentiments. I prayed he would soon get a rest. We don't want to lose him. Thank you Michael for opening my eyes; they've been shut for too long.
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    ex 3 PARA · 10 years ago
    Yes, I admit to being a tad disappointed when I check Mike's website and see no new postings with appropriate photos. But that is because I love his articles so much, they enable me to understand what is really happening in Afghanistan and Iraq and also what very senior commanders think about events and news stories. He has great access (despite our beloved MOD).

    As an example, until I saw Mike's photos and articles I had very little understanding of the sheer number of IEDs, their scale, the ways they are hidden and the complexity of the situations faced by those on the ground. I'm not without experience; 34 years ago today I lost my right leg on an anti-personnel mine in Dhofar. But I am old and out of date. Having read Pharmacy Road I better understood Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid's loss, his life and his heroism.

    Thanks to Michael I have a much better handle on what's really happening. Some things don't change, the good guys are the same, the bad guys are as adaptable and elusive as ever and politicians pretend to have vision and empathy when they are really just deploying distraction techniques while trying to catch up.

    But Michael is a bright light illuminating the players and some dark corners. His posts from Nepal are aposite and informative. I pray he enjoys his R & R; hot showers and cold beers are a great investment, just watch out for Australians and yaks.

    On my personal Rememberance Day, 13th November I buy myself a present. Sometimes it's just lunch, or a book or a DVD. This year I'm having a sandwich at my desk and contributing £100 to Michael. Spend it on reporting expenses if you must, but I'd rather it was invested in R & R!
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    Marineflieger · 10 years ago
    ...Let's not forget that there are - in fact - US troops assigned to ISAF, too. The acronym "ISAF" has never been used to specifically criticize European troops in Afghanistan (at least not here in Michael's column), because ISAF encompases so many other coutries completely external to Europe.

    I'll pre-qualify my opinion on General McCaffery's comments by telling you that I was US Navy pilot-exchange officer to the German Navy for years, piloting Sea Lynx helicopters from German ships as part of CTF-150 in the Gulf of Aden. Though I never served directly in Afghanistan with the Germans, I do feel qualified to make an informed interpretation of General McCaffery's comments about the German military.

    German military presence in N. Afghanistan has been the "elephant in the room" ever since OEF began in 2001. In his answer, General McCaffery simply pointed to the elephant and said "hey everybody, there he is". The US is, of course, "happy" to have the support of another European nation, but would it not have been just as good for Germany to have simply supported the US a little more in the UN world body, provided some modest funding to help support the operation and simply said "Go kick their asses, America! Germany's behind you!!" They could've easily washed their hands of the whole thing while sparing their own troops and still appearing to be a fully functional member of NATO, never having to suffer the scorn of their own extremely pacifist population. ...It all has the very suspicious appearance of the German politicians purposefully inserting themselves onto the perimeter of the conflict, merely for the purposes of establishing more "veto power" within the UN world body. That is to say, by putting "a little something on the table" (at minimal personal or political risk) they've attempted to cultivated more influence on how the war is fought. i.e. All the benefits of being a full coalition member, while doing basically nothing in a part of the country that is (or at least was) largely already secure. That position is becoming less secure by the minute, as radical elements are filtering in, and Germany now faces a "fight or flight" situation. ...It would appear that radical Islam has now called the Germans bluff. Regardless whether this postulate is true or not, you have to appreciate how strange the German involvement in Afghanistan must appear to the US and Britain (et al) to start with.

    It's not that German troops are worthless -- (they're quite the opposite, in my professional opinion) -- it's the restrictive operating regulations imposed by the German government and the complete inability of the German people to stomach their own troops actually performing any meaningful function in this war. The German troops can handle a fight. The German people and government, however, cannot. ...And that is the "elephant" that General McCaffery is pointing at.

    The Bundestag will come to pivital vote in mid-December on whether or not they're going sustain, escalate or completely remove their participation in OEF. It's time for Germany to put it's cards on the table. The war is heating up and General McCaffery, the US, British and other remaining elements who are serious about winning this thing don't have any more time to entertain the "expeditionary" ramblings of a nation that's not willing to actually involve itself in the war and may not be willing to maintain security in a region that will ever-increasingly need it - especially at the cost of German lives. I'm encouraged by the new 'war-footing' that Defense Minister Guttenburg has taken. He seems to believe that Germany's in this war for the right reasons and will follow through till its conclusion. ...We certainly need to hear more of that attitude coming from Berlin these days.

    If Germany votes to stay in ISAF, they CAN help win this war. But not if the German people won't suck it up, put on the big boy pants (like the new Defence Minister) and support the decision.

    But here's some food for thought: Japan has bowed out of this thing very honorably. They know that they won't be allowed to fight and that public opinion in Japan doesn't support their involvement. ...Maybe it's not too late for Germany to just say, "Go kick their asses, America! We're sitting this one out. ...The checks in the mail!" I'd certainly welcome the gesture. A lot of German people and even General McCaffery probably would, too. ...Just saying...
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    Scott Dudley · 10 years ago
    In a twitter post recently, Michael suggested a course of action that might be taken by Al Qaeda in forcing out allies. Yesterday, the State Department issued another Country alert for Germany. Seems Al Qaeda has recently conveyed warnings to Germany that they are soon to be targeted in their own lands. Stay tuned.
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    Kiwi Chris · 10 years ago

    The Kiwis are there in the form of our SAS (approx 70 Troopers) and we have PRT too - we do what we can when our political masters allow.
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    GreenWolf70 · 10 years ago
    Barry lost his military cred back in Iraq. You might as well ask David Axelrod for his opinion on the situation, it won't be much different. Personally, I tend to lump Barry and Wes Clark in the same category of political hacks who are more worried about their political careers than the troops. There are plenty of other retired generals who will give you a more honest opinion than McCaffery and Clark's regurgitation of the Democratic Party line. Think I'm kidding? Go read Barry's missives on Iraq and Afghanistan for West Point and especially his open email to the troops where he says Iraq is lost and their brave sacrifices were wasted, but not to worry because our next President, SHE will get us out. Utterly shameful.

    As far as the Germans, a very old friend of mine in the Bundeswehr once told me that a German politician can tell he's in the doghouse with his party when they appoint him Minister of Defense. In my experience, German troops are very professional, very efficient and feel very hamstrung in Afghanistan by their own government. Sound vaguely familiar?

    It seems that much of the advice to Obama is coming from old cold war advisors and that was the problem with Bush too (Rumsfeldt and his cronies). They are having a hard time adjusting to how to fight a "hearts and minds" kind of war. It is no surprise that successful strategy is coming from SF type Generals. Many of the President's advisors either have not, or can not, adjust to this new way of fighting and they should bow out gracefully, rather than continuing to provide misguided advice. Both McCrystal and Patreus understand how to win this kind of conflict, I'm just not sure the Chain of Command above them does. JMHO
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    Joe P. · 10 years ago
    Is there a point to this thread? Some people are bitching because Michael is out of the AoR and is not providing his usual unrivaled unvarnished coverage. Others are bitching because their perception (no matter how baseless) is the allies are not doing enough. Enough what is also mysterious, because of the third gripe, we dont have a strategic direction, followed closely by the final gripe, that there is a subgroup of retired Generals who are whores and will sell their opinions to the highest bidder. (which is true, but Barry McC is not a Dem whore, not by a long shot).

    So to help focus this discussion, lets review the bidding. Al Qaeda attacked the US repeatedly from 1993 to 2001. Only after the 9/11 attack did we as a nation sit up and take notice. Consistent with Clausewitz and our national interest, we went after the state, Ass-crack-istan, and its dually despotic narco-cartel regime, the Taliban who provided aid and shelter to AQ.

    Over the last 8 years we have emasculated AQ through the valiant efforts of a token (coalition) force. Needless to say that leaves the Taliban (and its creators and biggest sponsors the national Intelligence Service of Pakistan) to deal with. Since the biggest victims of Taliban misdeeds are the 10,000 Europeans a year who OD and die on their high grade heroin (oh yeah, and the 99.9% of Afghanistan who are not Taliban) it has become a European problem.

    Need less to say, the sun still rises in the east and war is still politics by other means, so it is a European political leadership problem. The above mentioned will-less people.

    In conclusion, after 24 years in uniform there isnt an allied military I wouldn't serve with again, outside of the Greeks. In fact, there were days I thanked heaven that countries like the Turkey and the South Korea were on our side. And I can tell you first hand that even a overweight, drunken, retired vet of the Bundeswehr could shoot the buttons of any GI I have ever known.

    And please stop picking on Generals, if they had any marketable skills to begin with the wouldn't be Generals, but they certainly wouldn't have to resort to selling opinions to the highest bidder.
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    Mike Morgan · 10 years ago
    First of all, I speak for no one but myself... That being said, I am interested in Michael's reporting on any subject.... I have been following his stuff on Twitter and suggest others do the same... He is truly an independent voice which comes at a price. Even Michael Yon deserves a little R and R as "ex PARA" and much more eloquently stated....

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    Higuma · 9 years ago
    Five billion dollars that Japan does not have. Why does the Japanese tax payer have to pay for the "reconstruction" of A-stan? What's there to "reconstcut" anyway? Nothing. We're going to build up everything fo them, and then, within ten years after we pull out, everything will collapse again.

    The goal in A-stan must be the destruction of Osama and his goons, not to "reconstruct" this country. And certainly no "reconstruction" with MY tax money when our own national debt and deficit is skyrocketting. We don't have five billion dollars for this. And why do we have to care about A-stan when our own hospitals are running out of pediatricians?!

    Besides, I just need to look at Europe and the Balkans to see how such "reconstruction" is not working at all. The Europeans build up everything for the people there, and healthy young men sit next to it and watch how the foreigners do the work these healthy young men can do themselves. And then, ten years later, it all collapses, again, becaues people are just lazy and know that all they have to do is cry and quickly some European aid organization will come to help them.

    But the politicians who had this stupid idea are now (April 2010) massively tanking. Good.

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