The mystery of Michael Yon’s “cancelled” embed
So what’s going on with Michael Yon’s embed with the British Army in Afghanistan?
Michael Yon is an independent journalist who has been spending some time with 2 Rifles in Helmand filing dispatches for his website.
After writing a post entitled ‘Bad Medicine‘ – a description of a British operation in Sangin, (neatly summarised at Defence of the Realm), he added a short piece saying his embed had been "cancelled" by the Ministry of Defence.
In this tweet, he suggested that this was a consequence of getting "too close to the truth of the war".
In his dispatch, Yon makes an interesting reference to operational security (OPSEC) concerns apparently pre-empting a discussion (like this one) of whether his embed had been cancelled because of an OPSEC breach:
"We set off down the market road. Some folks believe such reports are “security violations,” as if the thousands of people living here do not know exactly where the bases are, or do not know exactly where we came from and went to. Operations take place here every day. Civilians are everywhere."
And in a tweet earlier today, Yon went further alleging that the "British MoD [are] playing games after shutting me down. Perhaps they sensed I am preparing to report that they are underreporting casualties."
Yon’s claim that his embed has been "cancelled" has already sparked a number of comments on his blog and several commenters have apparently contacted the Ministry of Defence to complain.
But the Ministry of Defence deny that they have cancelled Yon’s embed stating that he has simply come to the end of his allocated five weeks. (A quick check of Yon’s blog reveals his first day with 2 Rifles was five weeks ago on 21 July.) An MoD press officer said most reporters only get two or three weeks with a unit and there are a lot of journalists that want embeds.
The press officer said he had read Yon’s post. While he suggested that some of the images Yon used (including pinpointing British Forward Operating and Patrol Bases on Google Maps) might "raise a few operational security eyebrows", he did not think there was a problem with operational security.
Echoing Yon’s own views, the press officer suggested the Taliban would already know where British bases were located in Sangin.
On the question of underreporting casualties, the MoD said casualty statistics are regularly reported.
The MoD are actively trying to contact Yon, who is already on his way to join up with the U.S. Marines.