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Michael Yon: Ministry of Defence gave me "zero warning"

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Yon.JPGIn an email I received overnight, Michael Yon claims the Ministry of Defence "cut off" his embed with the British Army in Afghanistan with "zero warning and no chance for me to prepare."

As I highlighted yesterday, Yon had been embedded with 2 Rifles for the last five weeks. The MoD denied that Yon's embed had been "cancelled" claiming he had come to the end of his allocated time period and that other journalists were waiting for embeds.

Yon, a former Green Beret, argues that "it's silly to lump me in with the war-tourist sorts who come here for a month or two (usually a week or two). 

"Among those who do come, most rarely if ever go on true combat missions to see what our lads are dealing with."

He claims there is "no journalist in the U.K. or the U.S. who spends more time in combat."

He remains specifically unhappy at what he felt was a lack of warning that his embed was ending: "It's too expensive and dangerous" to operate in Afghanistan knowing that "amateur-hour is running the show" at the MoD.

Citing "thousands of dollars in direct costs, logistical headaches and lost opportunities," Yon says it's not sensible to cover British troops when he did not know if his embed might end "from one hour to the next."

He said the problem could have been "easily solved by giving me even a few days notice," and he remains suspicious of the fact his embed ended hours after he had published a post entitled 'Bad Medicine'. (Update: Though clearly this is something the MoD want to dispel. Yesterday, they said they could not see an operational security problem with the post and just now @defencehq tweeted a link to the article.) 

Yon had high praise for British soldiers saying they were "like his own brothers": "I can say with certainty that British forces are fighting courageously, they are fighting well...I would never hesitate to go into battle with them."

But Yon says the war in Afghanistan is "being lost" and his experience means he does not foresee himself embedding with British forces in the future. "The world is too big to play games with a few nameless bureaucrats," he says.

In future articles about the British Army in Afghanistan, Yon says the MoD will not be given a chance to comment: "If they wish to comment, they can do so separately in the form of a rebuttal, or however they chose. Access is a two-way street." 

Speaking of which, I've now left two messages today with the MoD for their take on this latest development. Hopefully, they will get back to me some time this afternoon. (Update: Which kindly they did. See the MoD's response in the comments.)

But whatever the wrangling about the whys and wherefores the sad fact of the matter is that a great source of reporting about the work of British troops in Afghanistan has been lost. 


Ken | August 26, 2009 4:50 PM

Interesting - his stuff has been very vivid and compelling. This last post had quite specific details on the location of various outposts - but I'm sure the local Taliban have a decent idea of that already. One for your discussion on 8th Sept with Richard Sambrook?

Daniel Bennett replied to comment from Ken | August 26, 2009 4:55 PM

Yes. MoD said the same thing to me yesterday. Press officer did not see a problem with operational security in Yon's post.

DefenceHeadquarters | August 26, 2009 5:34 PM

Michael Yon’s embed with British forces has not been cancelled and we are disappointed that he has chosen to characterise it as such. We have hosted Michael with British forces for five weeks, some two weeks longer than originally planned.

We welcome Michael’s thorough reporting of the work of British forces and we have no objection to his recent piece entitled "Bad Medicine". All journalists embedding with the UK military are given access to troops without censorship. However all materials coming out of theatre is checked to ensure that key tactical details that would aid the enemy are not being made public. Michael’s dispatch was subject to these checks and was given the go-ahead.

This was posted by the MOD. You can find a copy at www.blogs.mod.uk

Paul | August 27, 2009 9:16 AM

Having looked after embeds on behalf of the MOD, I suspect that his extended stay was due to the paucity of helos to actually get him out on time! Michael's posts have indeed been fascinating and I've been following the 2 Rifles with considerable interest mindful of the casualties and KIA they've endured. I think this situation demonstrates that embeds should in fact be afforded far longer periods in situ; Michael's copy has shown a high degree of trust and access from the Battlegroup in Sangin, which over a prolonged period of time has generated some great reporting.

Ken | August 27, 2009 10:37 AM

Dan - I've posted on this at KoW, linking here. Cheers. Ken

Brian | August 28, 2009 5:48 PM


I thought you might be interested in Stephen Grey's piece in the new issue of Prospect, in which he examines where Britain has gone wrong in Helmand, and where it continues to go wrong.

The piece is free to read at Prospect's website:


Please feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section below the piece.