Yon’s Book, Iraq, and Afghanistan

Michael Yon's New Book, Moment of Truth Available Now!

I was able to get a copy of Michael Yon’s book “Moment of Truth In Iraq” (available at Amazon, see also Yon’s reader comments). I highly recommend the book for anyone looking for an easy to read summary of the war (post invasion) from the perspective of the front lines. Yon notes our failures to conduct effective operations and strategies to avoid destabilizing effects throwing the overall action into danger as well as critical failures of al Qaeda which gave us the second chance we are capitalizing on now. Yon details how we, through counter-insurgency and General Petraeus, are taking advantage of this chance. We are seeing some of the fruits of this change in strategy.

Yon gives a warning that this isn’t over yet, based on how we act as a nation, we can stifle the progress and be witnesses to a bloodbath. Most notably, Yon believes (at the time of writing) that we should increase troop numbers to effectively conduct counter-insurgency in the remaining areas.

Finally, Yon also gives a strong warning that Afghanistan needs to be addressed ASAP as he feels we are loosing. Unfortunately, Michael Yon doesn’t go into any detail regarding how or why he believes we are loosing in Afghanistan. That is the only criticism I have of the book – if you bring up the issue, make the argument, Michael doesn’t. The reader is left guessing (likely, Yon is also referring to counter-insurgency operations here too). With General Petraeus’ promotion to also overseeing Afghanistan operations, counter-insurgency may well be what Yon is referring to but without any specifics, that is the only guess I have for his opinion.

On a personal side, Michael Yon mentions how well the 101st Airborne (under General Petraeus’ leadership) performed in Mosul after the invasion,specifically relating to strategies aimed at preventing insurgency. I remember sending some requested supplies to the 101st for them to use in a joint humanitarian project at that time, it was nice to know that I was a part (albeit tiny) of making a difference.

Anyway, I mentioned that there has been a bunch of progress. To date, we’ve seen the Anbar Awakening and the Diyala Awakening where former insurgents came to us and we jointly hammered al Qaeda. We have also seen the Iraqi forces become stronger and more competent and seen Basra and Sadr City battles handled with Iraqi forces in the lead (and Maliki taking a much stronger leadership role) and Moqtada al Sadr effectively give up in both places (not to mention Maliki telling Iran to quit meddling). One of the best signs is also the return of the Sunnis to the government and the greater political competency by local leaders (also discussed in Yon’s book) after some mentoring.

With all this positive progress, we must remember that Mosul (al Qaeda is running to it) must still be settled and now is not the time to say ‘good enough’ and leave. In any battle or war there are many (probably countless) critical junctures. This is another one. Let us not fail the Iraqis and keep our thoughts, as well, to Afghanistan.

Side note: In terms of Afghanistan (and the region, in general), I’ve found The Long War Journal to provide a pretty good wrap up of the region (click here for Afghanistan-specific entries).

Note on Afghanistan: In responding to a comment, I remembered Yon had highlighted an article written by a British MP named Adam Holloway. The article may well be what Yon has in mind when he discusses Afghanistan: To bring peace to the Afghans, talk to the Taleban

UPDATE: Speaking of Mosul

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4 thoughts on “Yon’s Book, Iraq, and Afghanistan

  1. If Mosul is secured, then the insurgents will just go someplace else. There still aren’t enough occupation forces to control all of Iraq. It would be interesting to find out when, in your opinion, would be a good time to leave Iraq– before it’s too late in Afghanistan.

  2. Very short answer – Iraqi forces and citizens will keep them out of the areas (read Yon’s book for details on the change etc and the long answer).

    If we pull out wholesale, we guarantee al Qaeda will take over and a massive bloodbath will ensue. As Iraqi forces and leadership become more effective, General Petraeus will shift forces as needed. Additionally, we should be expanding our forces (and we are – I believe the USMC is boosting it’s total force size). Our allies can also boost force sizes in Afghanistan. Yon also alludes that force size alone isn’t the solution to Afghanistan (as with everything, just throwing more money and people at something doesn’t usually do much compared to good strategy). Further, you seem to think that we need all the troops from Iraq to go to Afghanistan – a force boost need not be a massive boost: once the Iraqis don’t need as much support some forces may be shifted to the other front but a good portion will, likely, go back to their home bases (or just not get deployed).

    I will also have to check if Yon mentioned if he thinks we need an increased force in Afghanistan. He may not have stated such at all (again, I wish he would have gone into greater detail on the issue in his book). He may simply mean we need to pursue better counter-insurgency tactics…and even that is just a guess as there are different things at play in Afghanistan (such as narcotics and slow infrastructure development). Judging by the articles linked below, the latter seems to be what Yon has in mind:

    Here is the most recent post Yon has put up on the issue (really a link to an article he agrees with) and here is one article (from 2006, however) where Yon discusses Afghanistan. Both articles focus on infrastructure, economic development and political engagement. As a matter of fact, the Holloway article mentions that “Nato should cut numbers…”.

    In the aforementioned post, Yon seems to endorse Holloway’s article.

  3. (1) Al Qaeda is not in Iraq, it’s in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t worry about an al Qaeda takeover of Iraq, the Mahdi Army and the Peshmerga will probably end up in charge.
    (2) We definitely have to have more troops in Afghanistan, if only to replace the NATO units that are pulling out. The Bush administration has only proposed sending an additional 7,000, not enough, and they won’t even get there until someone else in President.

  4. Are you being serious?

    Sorry, al Qaeda is in Iraq (as well as Afghanistan) but, thus far, the population has turned on them and is in the process of trying to get rid of them.

    You may have your opinion on how many are needed in Afghanistan and that’s fine. I defer to Yon and Holloway (and the military, in particular) who have on-the-ground knowledge of the situation. Currently, Yon and Holloway don’t seem to be focusing on numbers but strategy (please read the linked articles).

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