Friday, April 15, 2011

Another Strategic Forehead Slapping Moment in Afghanistan

Outpost Restrepo

Korangal Valley


One year ago yesterday, the United States Army closed the Korangal outpost in the Korangal Valley of northeast Afghanistan. This valley was the scene of almost constant combat after an outpost was established in April of 2006 by the U.S. Marines. Over the next four years the valley saw soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade duel with the the local mountain people supported by the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters slipping across the nearby Pakistan border. The valley was the scene for the Academy Award nominated documentary Restrepo and later written about by Bing West. in his best selling The Wrong War.

The main reason given for pulling back and abandoning the valley after two score and two deaths and hundreds of wounded was that the very presence of American forces was causing the locals to join the Taliban. The logic was these clannish mountain people would shun the Taliban and the Taliban would leave. Well folks, get ready for that forehead slapping moment.

The Wall Street Journal in an article last week reported that six months ago in September, 2010 that air strikes were conducted in the valley that resulted in dozens of Al Qaeda fighters and two senior leaders being killed. The article lays it out this way.
In late September, U.S. fighter jets streaked over the cedar-studded slopes of Korengal, the so-called Valley of Death, to strike a target that hadn't been seen for years in Afghanistan: an al Qaeda training camp.
Among the dozens of Arabs killed that day, the U.S.-led coalition said, were two senior al Qaeda members, one Saudi and the other Kuwaiti. Another casualty of the bombing, according to Saudi media and jihadi websites, was one of Saudi Arabia's most wanted militants. The men had come to Afghanistan to impart their skills to a new generation of Afghan and foreign fighters.
Over the past six to eight months, al Qaeda has begun setting up training camps, hideouts and operations bases in the remote mountains along Afghanistan's northeastern border with Pakistan, some U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials say. The stepped-up infiltration followed a U.S. pullback from large swatches of the region starting 18 months ago. The areas were deemed strategically irrelevant and left to Afghanistan's uneven security forces, and in some parts, abandoned entirely.
The article goes on to point out that contrary to military claims, the Taliban and in particular Al Qaeda have maintained their ties and continue to draw recruits from around the world.
Interviews with several Taliban commanders bear out that assessment. The commanders say the al Qaeda facilities in northeastern Afghanistan are tightly tied to the Afghan Taliban leadership. "In these bases, fighters from around the world get training. We are training suicide bombers, [improvised explosive device] experts and guerrilla fighters," said an insurgent commander in Nuristan who goes by the nom de guerre Agha Saib and who was reached by telephone.
The U.S. military has countered that raids by small elite units have been effective in countering the Al Qaeda presence in the valley. But they admit that those forces are stretched thin across the globe.
"We do not have an intelligence problem. We have a capacity problem. We generally know the places they are, how they are operating," said the senior U.S. military official, speaking of al Qaeda. The problem "is our ability to get there and do something."
Read more:
Al Qaeda Makes Afghan Comback!

Where do we go from here. Is this a window on the future of Afghanistan operations? Why did it take six months for this to information to surface? I can't imagine how the soldiers who fought in the valley and especially the parents of the slain feel today knowing that it appears that like the re-occurring nightmare of tactics in Vietnam it was all in vain. Does the answer lie in a Machiavellian or Curtis LeMay strategy of carpet bombing the valley or continued insertion of small forces that sooner or later will take more casualties in an never ending conflict.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After watching the Hollywood- shunned incredibly superior Documentary by the late Tim Hetherington - RESTREPO I find it outrageous that there are no comments on this blog about the ridiculous insanity of our military strategy in Afghanistan. We had a successful FOP @ this point... and what do the idiots do? Pull out of course...God forbid we have an effective effort against Haji and his pals in the Taliban! RIP FOB RESTREPO