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U.S. Pulling Back in Afghan Valley It Called Vital to War

Posted by The Agonist on February 24th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

C. J. Chivers, Alissa J. Rubin & Wesley Morgan | Kabul | February 24

NYT – After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

And it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered. At least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks, according to a count by The New York Times, and many times more have been wounded, often severely.

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to “U.S. Pulling Back in Afghan Valley It Called Vital to War”

  1. Tom Maguire says:

    The better Times article today is Dexter Filkin's review of Bing West's “The Wrong War”. A snippet:

    ““The Wrong War” amounts to a crushing and seemingly irrefutable critique of the American plan in Afghanistan. It should be read by anyone who wants to understand why the war there is so hard.

    The strength of West’s book is the legwork he’s done. Most accounts of America’s wars, particularly those by former military officers, are written in the comfort of an office in the United States. Not so here. At age 70, West, the author of several books on America’s wars, went to Afghanistan and into the bases and out on patrols with the grunts, waded through the canals, ran through firefights and humped up the mountains. (At one point he contracted cholera and was evacuated by helicopter.) Embedding with American troops in God-forsaken places like Kunar and Helmand Provinces is hard business. What drives this man? West is worth a book in himself.

    But the legwork pays off. West shows in the most granular, detailed way how and why America’s counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is failing. And, in the places where the effort is showing promise, he demonstrates why we don’t have the resources to duplicate that success on a wider scale. Mind you, West is no antiwar lefty: he’s a former infantry officer who fought in Vietnam. An assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, he admires — nay, adores — America’s fighting men and women, and he wants the United States to succeed. But the facts on the ground, it appears, lead him to darker truths. “

    Pretty grim.

    As to withdrawing from the Pech Valley, that was decided a few years back, as the current Times story eventually explains. There headline is a bit of hype.

    Tom Mguire

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