Michael's Dispatches

To bring peace to the Afghans, talk to the Taleban

25 Comments

Planes, Trains, Armored Trucks, and Afghanistan

Instead of “planes, trains, and automobiles,” my trip from western Nineveh to Mosul, to Erbil, to Vienna, to Stuttgart, to Atlanta, to El Paso, and then to Florida was much more interesting. It included helicopters, armored pickup trucks, trains, buses, cars and numerous jets. And the “fun” has just begun. After Florida there will be Washington, D.C., and then back to the war. As always, I beg forgiveness for the great difficulty I have responding to emails.

In addition to all the travel there is also the endless homework. A big challenge has been finding reliable sources whether they be military, political, or journalistic. I’ve located another source whom I pay attention to regarding Afghanistan. Former British military officer and ITN reporter, Adam Holloway MP is now on the Defence Select Committee. I’ve mentioned Mr. Holloway in my 2006 dispatches on Afghanistan, after having met him on a remote airfield in Afghanistan. He’s a very smart man with an eye for truth about the war: good, bad and the ugly. In Afghanistan it’s mostly the bad and ugly. Mr. Holloway has written an important piece at www.spectator.co.uk. : To bring peace to the Afghans, talk to the Taleban.

What Mr. Holloway is proposing might cause nervous twitches – perhaps spasms – in America and in the United Kingdom. But I know for a fact that he’s paying close attention to Afghanistan. After I first met him there in 2006, I learned through a source that Mr. Holloway financed his own second secret trip to the hinterlands so that he could avoid the dog and pony show of an official visit. In December 2007, when I visited the U.K., an important part of the trip that I have not previously mentioned was that I met with Mr. Holloway numerous times to discuss Afghanistan.

The United Kingdom is a critical partner in the Afghan war. Mr. Holloway’s controversial article deserves serious consideration and discussion. Furthermore, this Member of Parliament is willing to open a direct line to citizen-voices from the United States, and so with his permission, Mr. Holloway’s email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom W. · 11 years ago
    The Taliban murder teachers, students, women who don't dress right, but we're supposed to honor them and dignify them by sitting down and having tea with them.

    The Brits tried it, and we had to save them. The Pakistanis are trying it, and they're losing.

    People who skin other people alive don't deserve to talked to. They deserve to be killed. That's the moral thing to do.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    frieda · 11 years ago
    Michael, I just finished reading your book. I learned so much and so many time your stories brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for all of your efforts. Shookran!

    I was born in Iran and grew up in Kuwait but I am American by choice. I was for removing Saddam from power from beginning of this war and most of all I wanted the war to liberate the kurds in Iraq. I think after the first Iraq/Kuwaiti war we owed Kurds big time!

    As you have said, we have almost won the Al-Qaida battle , now its time to win the war with iran in iraq! I agree with that old Sheik who told you that "the Iranians are poison to the Iraqi people"...Well, I hope someone will teach that to Obama and Clinton.

    Thanks and may God continue to bless you.

    BTW: I have ordered two more of your books to send to my congressman and to my Senator.
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    Martin McDermott · 11 years ago
    If your book doesn't get you the Ernie Pyle Award, I don't know what will. I have been a reader of your blog for several years and have been so impressed with your focus on the average American soldier and Marine in both the heat of battle and their flexibility in responding to the needs of a changing battlefield. While it has taken time for the political-military strategy to take hold, you have focused on the achievements of our brightest and best. They are something and we all should be so proud of them. Isn't it a shame that their accomplishments are so appreciated by the Iraqis and ignored by our citizens. Your book goes a long way to balancing the scales. We Americans owe them so much.
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    BobG · 11 years ago
    Michael, Jimmy Carter went to Palestine, Damascus, Cairo, etc? Just because someone goes places and talks to evil people (unencumbered by the official dog and pony show) does not make them right.

    I really appreciate your first hand accounts of events at the point of the spear. I am beginning to question your analysis of the bigger picture. I think that your vision may be clouded by an antipathy to Washington--or is it Bush?

    By the way, I am sure that you know that there were numerous attempts to talk to the Taliban (American spelling) before and after 9/11. They didn't want to talk. Oh, and I recommend some light reading during your travels--"A Thousand Splendid Suns". Is the Taliban depicted there the same ones Mr Holloway meets with?
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    Sam Chapman · 11 years ago
    Michael - I have been a part of the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life of Lake Travis (just west of Austin, TX) for 6 years. This year we had a team of soldiers deployed in Iraq register online to participate in our event. The team, called Soldiers For A Cure, is part of the USAF 407th Air Expeditionary Group. I have not heard back from their team captain, SSgt. Lisa Beckett in a week, but I hope to hear from her with results of their Relay. These folks raised almost $1000 online and I think it is remarkable that they participated in our event from not only a great distance from home, but while in a hot zone. These are the stories that need to get out. Write me if you want more details.
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    Ron P · 11 years ago
    I commented on my thoughts about his article over at the Spectator, we will see if it gets approved. Bottom line is that the taliban are the lazy man's al qaeda... they are radical islamists too. They just keep more to themselves. Had they not harbored Al Qaeda they may very well be chugging along today, beating the women and molesting the young boys. It doesnt take much intelligence to determine what is religion and what is perverted religion. The Afghans will figure it out soon enough. We don't need to go all "Jimmy Carter" over there.
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    Merlin · 11 years ago
    We must get the aid to the people that need it the most and where it will product the best result. The problem is how do you get corrupt politicians to deal with honest men?
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    Kristopher · 11 years ago
    All of that 1940's unpleasantness could have been avoided, had we only been willing to talk ...
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    maureen · 11 years ago
    Michael, I finished reading your book. Tears were in my eyes many times, but they were tears of pride for the heroes you described. I wish every member of Congress would be required to read this book and write a book report for their constituents. God Bless You and Keep You Safe.
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    proud aussie · 11 years ago
    Look at Iraq with the 1920 brigade. Deal at the local level and undercut the higher level thugs. After all how did the West first succeed in Afghanistan ( before we let some eurotwits loose there ).

    As the COIN manual stated, don't fight the last war.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AVN · 11 years ago
    I read the article by Mr. Galloway, and I understand what he's saying, but don't necessarily think we need to be "negotiating" with the leaders of the Taliban in some kind of top-down manner. I think we need to look at it from the bottom-up. We need to map out all of the tribes and clans and families of the Pashtun, and understand them first. Then, we start negotiating with individual tribal elders or heads of families, and try to pick off the low-hanging fruit with deals and arrangements. Use our enormous cash advantages to leverage our military operations in a carrot and stick manner. A top-down approach will not get us what we want. And it is naive to think we can just negotiate our way through the problem without military assets remaining in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis tried that and got badly burned in 2006. The tribes knew that the Pakistanis were pulling out no matter what and that even if the tribes broke the agreements there would be no consequences. That's a recipe for disaster.
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    Lisa Lyles · 11 years ago
    Hi Micheal, I read the article that Galloway wrote and he makes sense but It seems to me that he is trying to take too many risks. I have read many stories about the Talibans who do cruel, mean, and unjust things for simple things people do everyday. We want peace yes but there has to be another alternative. I believe that people who can kill other people need to be dead. Just look at before when the others wanted to sit and make peace as you we had to save them. So in my opinion no we shouldn't sit and talk with them.
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    Ammo Guy · 11 years ago
    So it's June 1940 and Mr. Holloway is set to brief the new PM on the situation in Western Europe. I imagine he would tell Mr. Churchill to negotiate with the Nazis because they just overran France and are too strong for poor England to oppose on its own. Sure that thing with the Jews is unfortunate, but we'll just have to live with it.

    Geez, what has happened to the once mighty British Empire?
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    Mike P · 11 years ago
    Bought and devoured your book. Wish there was some magic way to make the politicos read and understand it. I hope Petreus is able to have some modicum of success in Afghanistan as the new CentCom boss, but it just "ain't" Iraq. Regarding your MP friend, I would expand on his idea somewhat as I think that we should never be afraid to talk to anyone - Taliban, Hamas, Iran, even al Queda - so long as they want to talk, in secret with no posturing. Doesn't mean anything would come from it, and we shouldn't expect anything. Doesn't mean we quit killing them in the mean time, either, but we shouldn't be surprised if an occasional positive development comes about. So long as we are sure there is no cost, why not?
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    Frek · 11 years ago
    Just herard Mike's comments on NPR. He's a really brave fellow. Thanks for your 'service' mike. Can you please STOP repeating the misleading line "NO BODY EXPECTED AND INSURGENCY". There were many people who expected it - check it out. Some very famous people lost their jobs on the air or in the media for repeating what many very knowlegable people in the Bush 1 administration and throughout the middle east that said to remove SADAM would result in our becoming mired in an insurgency.

    Your not a 10 year old child with your fingers in your ears chanting "la la la la la..." so you had to see the comments and hear the news that IRAQ was going to result in an insurgency. Please change this position to "NO body BELEIVED what others were saying...I certainly didn't." To go on the aire or write that NO one expected it is to discount what generals said (remember they wanted a much bigger force to attack). So to say NO one is dishonest or ignorant.

    Again Thanks For Brining Iraq home to us - it's been a great source of info. Just don't distort the situation in order to sell your point. People DID anticipate exactly this happening to your pals.

    Thanks ff
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    jenny stevens · 11 years ago
    May God bless you in defeating evil in defending our freedom.
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    AVN · 11 years ago
    I don't think Michael Yon was being literal when he said "Nobody expected an insurgency" in Iraq after the invasion. What he obviously meant was that very few people actually expected THIS kind of insurgency to unfold in the way that it did. Even the enemy didn't expect it. Countries in the region didn't expect it. They expected trouble and problems, but not this. Yes, there were people who warned that occupying Iraq would be difficult. And yes, people in the Bush administration minimized those problems. But the reality is, most people did not expect a five+ year insurgency that took Iraq into a civil war that nearly exploded into full scale genocide.

    Also, Frek, were you among those few Americans who applauded George H.W. Bush for standing aside and watching Saddam Hussein slaughter tens of thousands of Kurds and Shiites who rebelled after the first Gulf War? You liberals love citing Cick Cheney's logic for not intervening back then, but did you actually believe Dick Cheney then? Or were you like most liberals who blasted Bush 41 for being a coward and a hypocrite and for tolerating massive slaughter? Were you among the majority of liberals who argued that the Gulf War was a failure because we "didn't finish the job" and left Saddam Hussein power? If you were among the latter, please do us all a favor and admit it.
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    NSW · 11 years ago
    AVN...If you're going to headline a post referring to spellcheck, then you need to get a grasp and do some proofreading yourself.

    As for your points, what does the Gulf War have to do with anything? I was in Iraq during all that, and I was disgusted and dismayed we didn't "finish the job." But I don't think Cheney and Bush were "cowards" for not invading Baghdad, and they were pragmatic as the times called for. A year later I had decided they were correct to do. I also thought, in Feb. 2003, that the current war was an outrageous mistake, and I've been proven correct in every way that matters.

    The fact is, in 1991, we DID tolerate mass slaughter...so it was disengenous for this administration to use that excuse as a reason for invasion in 2007. Let's accept that without 19 Saudi Arabian/Kuwaiti morons with box cutters, we don't ever invade Iraq at all.

    Whether or not anybody did or did not "expect" an insurgency, it was their job to know. The administration failed, and that incompentence - which began with a baffling war plan that basically made the machismo of a light, quick ground invasion the priority instead of intelligence, massive strength and tactics - cost a lot of lives. If you're the President, you don't get to say "I didn't expect." As for Michael Yon, he's a private citizen and he can say what he wants.

    So, you're using a straw man argument and not a real argument. Frek never made any of the claims you're arguing with him about. You're just ranting and raving about your perception of someone who disagrees with you, and you hope by throwing up a smokescreen about Desert Storm you'll overshadow his main points.

    And, I assume you're not one of those conservatives who tells liberals to "get over" the 2000 election, right? If you're going to obsess about ancient history, I assume you at least would not be a hypocrite.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AVN · 11 years ago
    The point is, most of the people complaining today about our decision to invade, are the same people who complained we didn't finish the job in 1991. Most of the war critics don't actually have any coherent thoughts...just knee-jerk "Blame America First" criticism. They told us in 1990 and before the war in 2003 that the war was going to be fought to preserve cheap oil. Now the war is supposedly being fought to keep oil prices high. They told us that America's foreign policy should be based on protecting human rights and lives, but then when we actually depose a tyrant whose hands are soaked in blood and whose country is littered with mass graves, now they claim they want realism and pragmatism and toleration of tyrants. They complain about genocide in Sudan, but don't seem to give a crap about genocide in Iraq. They opposed the sanctions policy, blamed it for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis starving and dying from no medicine and unclean water, and wanted sanctions lifted in the 1990s, but after the invasion these same people rewrite history and loved the sanctions and wished we had maintained the status quo.

    What critics just don't want to accept is the fact that every tyranny that imposes its will on a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian society, usually explodes into violence once the state-imposed repression is lifted and old scores are settled. This happened in the USSR, in Yugoslavia, after the Ottoman Empire's collapse, and now in Iraq. But that historical fact doesn't mean that we should forever be trying to prop up empires that are ruled with an iron fist.
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    Terry001 · 11 years ago
    Considering the reputation of the British Military among the US Military at this stage in OIF and OEF (actually long before this and now amplified), what makes you think the UK has any credibility with CENTCOM in regards to Afghanistan, Mr Yon?

    Why would we give their views any more credence after their performance in Basra and Helmand?

    For that matter, what makes you think that the US Military considers the British Army an able force?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Terry001 · 11 years ago
    AVN said: "Or were you like most liberals who blasted Bush 41 for being a coward and a hypocrite and for tolerating massive slaughter? Were you among the majority of liberals who argued that the Gulf War was a failure because we "didn't finish the job" and left Saddam Hussein power? If you were among the latter, please do us all a favor and admit it."

    AVN, your history is incomplete.

    During the successful invasion in 1991, the liberals did INDEED argue that the US Military should not prosecute/extinguish the Iraqi Military (and its Republican Guard) into Iraq. Much of this was brought on using feigned outrage at the so-called "Highway of Death".

    Only after the Kurds were attacked did liberals turn around to lambast the very course of action they SUCCESSFULLY advocated.

    So what we have is a little bit of revisionist history.

    President GHW Bush, however, weighed many considerations of which the domestic appeal of the war was a large one. I, however, believe that he made the most reasonable choice available to him at the time. America, in spite of what people claim, owed the Kurds nothing.

    It still owes the Kurds nothing. And if the Kurds or their lackeys ever doubt that; if the American people ever come across such pompous attitudes among the Kurds, then they will find themselves exposed to the tender mercies of the Turks, the Iranians, the Syrians, the Saudis and their "countrymen" in the south.

    America can take care of itself; they can't. And that deficiency led to their demise.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jiminez · 11 years ago
    When it comes to the British search for "Glory", I guess they can't sink too low. Take a look at some of the comments about the British "embeds".
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    Jiminez · 11 years ago
    And in the US Forces, they're not alone in their opinions of the British Army and Navy.

    http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2008/04/men-in-black-vanish-and-people-emerge.html
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AVN · 11 years ago
    Please see the following link from the New York Times:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE7DD163EF934A1575BC0A964958260

    It was written by B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR., Published: August 27, 1992

    Relevant quotes: "Mr. Clinton, the Democratic Presidential nominee who has asserted that Mr. Bush stopped the 1991 gulf war too soon, said at a campaign appearance here that election politics should be kept out of the decision-making involving the region."

    "Mr. Clinton has said a number of times that he, like some of President Bush's military advisers and aides, believes that the gulf fighting should have been allowed to continue so that the Iraqi military could have been further weakened."

    "Asked what he would have proposed back then, he replied, "A slight lengthening of the war."

    Mr. Clinton's running mate, Senator Al Gore of Tennessee, joined the Arkansas Governor at the press conference....was otherwise critical of Mr. Bush's handling of the gulf situation. He said the surviving Iraqi forces should not have been permitted to move about in southern Iraq after the fighting ended because that eventually resulted in attacks on dissidents.

    "It was an historic mistake," Mr. Gore said.

    Moreover, Laurie Mylroie, a prolific writer on Iraq who was Bill Clinton's advisor on Iraq during his 1992 campaign, wrote "During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton was tougher on Saddam than Bush, criticizing Bush for leaving Saddam in power. This author was, in fact, the advisor on Iraq to the Clinton campaign." Source: Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol 2, Number 1.
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    Freedom Now · 11 years ago
    We won the battle for the Hearts and Minds of Al-Anbar provinces by killing those who opposed us and defending those who worked with us.

    The model of appeasement in Basrah, Pakistan and Musa Qala with truces, withdrawals and well-meaning negotiations is a proven failure.

    Once you abandon your allies who dared to take up arms, provide moral or political assistance, and leave them at the mercy of enemies with no regard for upholding their end of any negotiations... then you have the results that Britain and Pakistan cultivated.

    You must fight for your allies like you would fight for your loved ones. They need us and to abandon them is the best way to lose their hearts and minds to six feet of dirt.

    This article is utterly stupid.

    My best wishes to our friends in Great Britain. America loves you.

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