Michael Yon, an independent journalist and former Green Beret, is in Afghanistan reporting on the war against Al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban. Here is a portion of his latest dispatch exclusively for FOXNews.com.
We need more troops. The leadership tells us that the Taliban and associated groups control only small parts of the country. Yet enemy influence is growing, and so far, despite that we have made progress on some fronts, our own influence is diminishing.
For example, an excellent British infantry unit that I embedded with in Iraq and now Afghanistan, the “2 Rifles,” is staked out in the “Green Zone” around the Helmand River. HQ for 2 Rifles is at FOB Jackson. There are several satellite FOBs and Patrol Bases, each of which is essentially cut off from the outside world other than by helicopter or major ground resupply efforts (which only take place about once a month).
The latest ground resupply effort from Camp Bastion resulted in much fighting. The troops up at Kajaki Dam are surrounded by the enemy, which has dug itself into actual “FLETs.” FLET is military-speak for “Forward Line of Enemy Troops.” In other words, the enemy is not hiding, but they are in trenches, bunkers and fighting positions that extend into depth. The enemy owns the terrain.
The British are protecting Kajaki Dam but otherwise it’s just a big fight and no progress is being made. The turbine delivery to the dam, which I wrote about last year, was a tremendous success. Efforts to get the turbine online have been an equally tremendous failure.
Bottom line: the project to restore the electrical capacity from Kajaki Dam is failing and likely will require multi-national intervention to bring it online and to push back the enemy.
We need more helicopters. Enemy control of the terrain is so complete in the area between Sangin and Kajaki that when my embed was to switch from FOB Jackson to FOB Inkerman —only seven kilometers (about four miles) away — we could not walk or drive from Jackson to Inkerman.
Routes are deemed too dangerous. Helicopter lift was required. The helicopter shortage is causing crippling delays in troop movements. It’s common to see a soldier waiting 10 days for a simple flight.
When my embed was to move the four miles from Jackson to Inkerman, a scheduled helicopter picked me up at Jackson and flew probably 80 miles to places like Lashkar Gah, and finally set down at Camp Bastion.
The helicopter journey from Jackson began on 12 August and ended at Inkerman on the 17th. About five days was spent — along with many thousands of dollars in helicopter time — to travel four miles.
Even gnerals can have difficulty scheduling flights. Interestingly, when I talk with the folks who reserve helicopter space, they say the generals are generally easy-going about the lack of a seat, but that colonels often become irate.