Michael Yon has a new post describing his latest adventure in Afghanistan. His story reads like something Kipling would have written as he traveled what Yon describes as the Wilds.
His story begins:
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.
His travels took him and his companions to the spot where ten French soldiers were killed in an ambush in August.
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
Yon manages to come face to face with the enemy and describes it.
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.
Yon's report is filled with photos taken of the men he met and of pictures taken by the Taliban of their spoils of war, French weapons and uniforms stripped from the dead.
Michael pays tribute to the French soldiers who came to our aid, just as American forces came to France's aid in two wars. He then offers his gut instinct of where the Afghanistan War is headed.
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.
Take the time to read Michaels report and reflect on the road ahead.