US Withdraws from Once-Key Afghan Valley

Some troops see wasted effort in Pech Valley
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2011 7:44 AM CST
US Withdraws From Once-Key Pech Valley in Afghanistan
In this Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 file photo, U.S. Marine Corps trainer Lt. Matthew Orr, right, of Flagstaff, Ariz., walks with an Afghan National Army soldier and trainee on patrol in the Pech Valley.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

The US is withdrawing from the Pech Valley, the mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan that for years was central to its strategy—and the site of much bloodshed. The move is a controversial one, notes the New York Times: 103 US troops were killed there, and many more wounded, leading some to feel that their efforts are going to waste. But "I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people," says a commander of the move, which will shift forces to more populated areas.

Military leaders say the valley ate up more resources than was appropriate considering its importance, that troops can be better used elsewhere, and that there aren’t enough troops for a clear victory in the region even if they did stay. “What we figured out is that people in the Pech really aren’t anti-US or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone,” notes an official. “Our presence is what’s destabilizing this area.” But insurgents will likely see this as a victory for their side, the Times notes. As for the Afghan troops that will remain behind, "It will be a suicidal mission," says a former Afghan battalion leader. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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