Base Shows Dangers of Handing Off to Afghans

The last time the US left Nangalam, all hell broke loose
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2011 2:29 PM CST
Base Shows Dangers of Handing Off to Afghans
The Afghan village of Nangalam, pictured from Forward Operating Base Blessing, in the Pech Valley, Kunar province, northeastern Afghanistan, Friday Jan. 29, 2010.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Wondering how the US’ rumored plan to handoff responsibility in Afghanistan to the Afghans will go? Well, the Wall Street Journal has a less-than-encouraging case study in Nangalam, a town in the Pech Valley. The US handed off control there to the Afghans in 2010—and all hell broke loose. The Taliban operated freely, riding through town and holding meetings with locals. The Afghan commander there deserted the post almost immediately, telling his men he was checking on another outpost, and never returning.

Soon, the remaining Afghans trashed the base, stripping it of its wiring, plumbing, and air conditioning. Why? Because their top officer had told them they would be leaving soon, and should destroy the base lest it fall into enemy hands. He later instructed them not to fight the Taliban, and even punished those who did so. Morale plummeted—100 of the 130 soldiers there deserted. A new commander was brought in, and got his troops fighting again, but Americans complained that they barely patrolled. Eventually, in what one officer called “a blinding flash of the obvious,” the US realized it had to return to Nangalam. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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