US retreats from Korengal in Afghanistan

Washington Post:


More than 40 U.S. soldiers have been killed, and scores more wounded, in helicopter crashes, machine-gun attacks and grenade blasts in the Korengal Valley, a jagged sliver just six miles deep and a half-mile wide. The Afghan death toll has been far higher, making the Korengal some of the bloodiest ground in all of Afghanistan, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, the American presence here came to an abrupt end. Capt. Mark Moretti, the 28-year-old commander of U.S. forces in the valley, walked two dozen Korengali elders around his base and told them that the United States was withdrawing. He showed the elders the battle-scarred American barracks; a bullet-ridden crane; wheezing generators and a rubber bladder brimming with 6,000 gallons of fuel.

Moretti, the son of a West Point physics professor, and Shamshir Khan, a valley elder whose son had been jailed for killing two U.S. soldiers, sat together on a small wall near the base's helicopter pad. In keeping with local custom among friends, they held hands.

Moretti gently reminded Khan of the deal they had reached a few days earlier: if U.S. troops were allowed to leave peacefully, the Americans wouldn't destroy the base, the crane and the fuel. Khan assured him that the valley's fighters would honor the deal.


If the place become a Taliban sanctuary, it will again become a battle ground. It may become like the tribal areas of Pakistan where UAVs keep enemy leaders on the run and make it uncomfortable for anyone to harbor them. Most of the problems US forces have had in this area were caused by an inadequate force to space ratio. Small numbers of troops were put in exposed positions with little supporting arms and reinforcements. Under those circumstances it is probably better to pull them back and fight in a different way.


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