Michael Yon has provided expert war correspondence from the front lines of America’s wars for as long as I have been blogging. His reports have generated considerable controversy; Yon was one of the first to warn that Iraq had slipped into a civil war in 2006, and his criticisms of the war effort in Afghanistan under both administrations has at times resulted in denied access to the front. Yon offers us this essay on the record of the war effort under Barack Obama, and why he feels that the US needs a new Commander in Chief.
President Obama Fumbled Afghanistan
By Michael Yon
President Obama ascended to the power through audacity, oration, and artful manipulation. In the United States and numerous Asian countries, I saw peoples’ eyes glaze with unconditional trust in a man who is unfit for office.
After the last election, I happened to be home from the wars, and in Washington DC for meetings. President-elect Obama’s inauguration was nearby, and so I attended on that freezing morning. Some of my detractors said, “Look at that, Yon’s joined forces with Obama.” It was an historical event worth seeing. The new president would, after all, be the decider in the wars to which I would soon return.
Many inauguration spectators appeared to be in a trance. Some hated President George Bush. Others talked about revenge for historical injustices. For some it was about money for nothing, while for others it was about a sincere desire for hope and change from a vaguely defined status quo. All were searching for something better or more.
Patriotism was noticeably thin at the inauguration. Yes, there were thousands of American flags, though team spirit would be more evident at a college football game. The flags were waving in a breeze laced with the stench of entitlement. It was not a God Bless America day. It was a God Bless Me day.
And there he was. Our new President. I determined to support him until he proved unworthy. Almost four years later, many people have snapped out of the trance, and that includes many non-Americans here in Asia. Obama’s magic wand has been broken over the knee of reality.
I cannot speak about the economy, education or healthcare, but I can speak about Afghanistan. Obama cannot be faulted that Afghanistan is stone-aged, or that our military strategy was wrecked when he took office. It was. The bus was in a ditch. Obama showed up with a wrecker, promising to yank it out. Today the wrecker is in the ditch atop the bus.
President Obama did fire General McChrystal and send General Petraeus to Afghanistan, which was smart. But now Director Petraeus is at the CIA, and not where we most need him, which is in the military. President Obama’s mishandling of the war has left many of us disillusioned.
Our leaders have repeatedly seen national news outlets indict the inadequacy of our MEDEVAC systems in Afghanistan. It can be said, “Yes, but it was done this way during the last administration.” True. And this administration promised hope and change.
Despite sustained national coverage of the MEDEVAC issue and direct appeals to the White House and Obama’s chosen Secretary of Defense, our helicopters still fly over Islamic Afghanistan wearing Red Crosses, which signals that the helicopters are unarmed, has caused unforgivable delays removing wounded troops from the battlefield.
Afghanistan: In October 2001, we destroyed Mullah Omar’s mosque in Sangesar Village, down in Kandahar Province. His second of three wives, Guljana, was from this village. His family lived there. This tiny mosque literally was the birthplace of the Taliban.
Under President Obama, ten years later in 2011, US troops renovated Mullah Omar’s mosque in Sangesar. First we bombed it in 2001. Then we fixed it in 2011. This remains one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan.
Perhaps we forgot that Mullah Omar gave Osama bin Laden sanctuary, and bin Laden then attacked America.
The symbolic appeasement represented by refurbishing the mosque is enormous. The place is in the middle of fields of poppy. Renovating this mosque in Sangesar is like building a dual monument to al Qaeda, and drug cartels.
We are not in this together. Sangesar is an enemy village. Our troops still die there.
In 2012, Mullah Omar praised the murders of Coalition forces. General John Allen, the US commander at the time, called it “an unmistakable message of death.” Mullah Omar was so busy directing the faithful to murder our troops that he forgot to express gratitude for the revenue stream from opium, and for the renovated mosque demonstrating his potency.
This year, the casualties continue. In March, at Sangesar, three Afghan insiders turned their guns on Americans, killing Staff Sergeant Jordan Bear from Denver, and Specialist Payton Jones from Marble Falls, Texas. Another Soldier was wounded. That is the payment we can expect for appeasing Islamic-narco-terrorists.
I was in the general area last year, and in previous years, and it was mostly about combat. Our young troops are something to be proud of, and if you saw them in action you would be amazed at their courage and professionalism. The mess we shoved them into is a national shame. We provided about half the troops required for the stated strategy, then began pulling them out against a domestic political deadline that has nothing to do with the war. The surge has been a complete waste of effort.
America saw both President Obama and Governor Romney endorse our Afghanistan strategy during their last debate, where ISAF forces train the Afghan Army and Police as a prelude to our disengagement in 2014. This is a broken strategy, with Afghans murdering so many of their trainers.
At least 30% of Afghan trainees must be replaced annually due to desertions and endemic corruption. Training Afghans to replace Coalition forces is not working. As we draw down, the enemy will be able to focus on fewer troops. Hollow Afghan units will collapse, and corrupt Afghan politicians will finally abscond to Dubai. We should cut our losses and remove the bulk of our force.
Although Obama needs to go home, this is no guarantee that Romney will do better. If Romney is elected, he will need a bigger wrecker. He is guaranteed the same honest chance that Obama received. Nothing less, nothing more.