Michael Yon: I Told You So

The massacre of civilians in Afghanistan was foreseen.

Writing in the New York Daily News, Michael Yon, who over the last eight years has produced some of the best reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan, isn’t too big to say “I told you so” about the recent mass murder of Afghan civilians by an American soldier:

The mass murder in Afghanistan was predictable. Twice in the past three weeks, I published that it was coming. Why was I able to write this with sad confidence? I’ve spent more time with combat troops in these wars than any other writer: about four years in total in country, and three with combat troops.

About 200 coalition members have been killed or wounded from insider attacks. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is tantamount to being Taliban and has not bothered to apologize. Instead, Karzai whips up anti-U.S. fervor at every opportunity. Twice, Karzai has threatened to leave politics and join the Taliban.

Even our most disciplined troops — not the few problem troops — have lost all idealism. They have not lost heart for the fight. Mostly, they just don’t care. They fight because they are ordered to fight, but they have eyes wide open. The halfhearted surge and sudden drawdown leave little room for success.

We face a discipline collapse. The bulk of our force is solid — then there’s a small fraction, probably a sliver of a percent, who might be crushed by the pressure.

Read the whole thing.

As we have seen it only takes one to make a massacre. What Yon now sees is a U. S. force inevitably caught up in a cycle of tribal revenge.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. PogueMahone says:

    Leading up to the wars, the hawks kept reassuring us that this won’t be like Vietnam. When you occupy a foreign country in which the civilian population doesn’t want you there, you’re going to end up not knowing who friend or foe is…. That’s a recipe for disaster – for all participants.

    I’m just surprised that these kinds of incidents don’t happen more often.

  2. Rob in CT says:

    IMO, the mission, such as it is today, is impossible.

    The original mission: smack down the Taliban for supporting OBL + capture/kill OBL, was fine. It was both justified and possible. The first part (smackdown) went ok. OBL got away, and it wasn’t a huge secret that he was likely in Pakistan. At that point, we had a choice, and we didn’t make the right one (pull out, keep backing the N.A. in some fashion, inform the Taliban and everyone else that we’d be back in force if they helped murderous bastards who kill Americans again). Instead, we went with “drain the swamp” and got into trying to nationbuild in the Graveyard of Empires. Now an enemy was anybody who didn’t want our troops occupying their country.

    Eventually, after years of futile nation-building, our guys got OBL in Pakistan. It was already long past time to leave Afghanistan, but the usual inertia, political and practical considerations delayed that. And so here we are, 10 years in, wonding WTF happened.

  3. steve says:

    A number of people have predicted this. Given how badly our troops are treated by Afghans (see Tom Ricks and Afghan bathroom habits as an example), and that the Afghans have given up on us, it is time to go.


  4. Dave Schuler says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The objectives have always been broader than what you’ve suggested:

    Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to
    clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice.

    At the same time, the oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and our allies. As we strike military targets,
    we’ll also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan.

    The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic
    faith. The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name.

    The emphasis is mine. That was October 7, 2001. It’s not an isolated instance. That, the unlikelihood of achieving those objectives, and the inevitability of mission creep were among the reasons I opposed the invasion from the start. Note, too, that as soon as the Taliban had been removed NATO became Afghanistan’s occupying power under international law with certain obligations for the security and welfare of the population.

  5. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I happened to watch a bit of that “bomb squad Afghanistan” television show. I had been avoiding it because it seemed like the worst sort of exploitative reality tv, but I settled in, and was glad I did. I saw Americans taking their jobs very seriously, and facing death … in dusty villages where everyone turned to eye the invader. I felt kinship with our troops, and appreciation for their courage and contribution … but why the hell were we there?

    I’m afraid this Yon piece one-ups it a bit. As he says, we now have troops who know they are serving out a bad war. That’s not good, even on the best days.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rob in CT:

    And so here we are, 10 years in, wonding WTF happened.

    I can tell you WTF happened…. The stupid.

    Ohhhh, one more thing, back in October of 2001? I told you so. 😉

  7. I`ll bet there are more high ranking officials who know for certain we will see more of this, but keep going. This guy must have shown signs that he was ready to go off but they turned their back on him, as they do when they come home for good. These men and women of war are doing too much. of all the industries where humans were replaced by machines war would have been the best place to start.

  8. Rob in CT says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Fair enough, though certainly there was a lot of mission creep. I guess my recap of the “original mission” is actually my 20/20 hindsight wish about what it should have been.

    I did oppose a rush to war (and even wrote a terribly naive letter to President Bush about that), but ultimately came down as reluctantly pro-invasion. I saw the “War on Terror” as fundamentally a law enforcement/intelligence operation, with very limited use of the military when all other options fail. I was willing to accept the Administration line that diplomacy/intel was insufficient in Afghanistan and, therefore, we must invade.

    After Tora Bora and the widespread assumption that OBL had f*cked off to Pakistan, I started to wonder about the next move. Then the run-up to the Iraq war sucked up all the attention.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    Note, too, that as soon as the Taliban had been removed NATO became Afghanistan’s occupying power under international law with certain obligations for the security and welfare of the population.

    “You break it you buy it.” I can’t really argue with that, much*. Which, in turn, makes my preferred mission (part punitive expedition, part man-hunt) unworkable.

    * – the Northern Alliance controlled a piece of Afghanistan. We intervened in a Civil War (which they had largely lost). Is such a move really much different than what we didn in Libya? If not, then do we: a) have certain obligations for the security and welfare of the Libyan population now; or b) did we not actually necessarily have such obligations in Afghanistan?

  10. I don’t think “you break it, you bought it” actually applies to war.

    Remember, in the good Gulf War (the first one) we broke without buying.

  11. Dazedandconfused says:

    Pay particular attention to the Pashtun tradition of “nanawatai”


    Not understanding that may have been key to our conflation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

  12. Robert C. says:

    And so it begins…sounds a little like blame the victims.

    Staff sgt…..he re-upped at least once didn’t he?


  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    Yon may be an admirable fellow in many ways but he sacrificed all credibility with me when he spent about five years puffing the Iraq debacle. This in its way contributed to the lack of focus on Afghanistan which largely accounts for the situation we find ourselves in today. He should have been worrying about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan but he was too busy doing commercials for our mission in Iraq.