In today’s NY Times, Washington Post and NBC Nightly News, it was reported that U.S. forces are withdrawing from the Korengal Valley region in northeastern Afghanistan. Those forces will be redeployed elsewhere in the country as it has been determined that their presence in Korengal has done little to secure a greater Afghan peace and stability at the cost of 40 American deaths and a far greater number of casualties.
Disclosure: Cpt. Mark Moretti, mentioned in the Post and Times, is my brother-in-law.
The Post sums it up:
For U.S. commanders, the Korengal Valley offers a hard lesson in the limits of American power and goodwill in Afghanistan. U.S. troops arrived in 2005 to flush out al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. They stayed on the theory that the American presence drew insurgents away from areas where the United States had a better chance of fostering development. The troops were, in essence, bullet magnets.
In 2010 a new set of commanders concluded that the U.S. had blundered into a blood feud with fierce and clannish villagers who wanted above all to be left alone. By this logic, subduing the Korengal wasn’t worth the cost in American blood.
The retreat carries risks. Insurgents could use the Korengal as a haven to plan attacks in other parts of Afghanistan. The withdrawal could offer proof to other Afghans that American troops can be forced out.
Now its been a while since I’ve trawled through BMG. but I assume that most here support an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in a similar manner to what many wanted in Iraq. But I’m curious, what do we make of the risk/reward conundrum that exists: have we reached the limits of our “power and goodwill” in Afghanistan, as in Korengal, and thus, should leave? Or will leaving Afghanistan in the manner that we exited Korengal leave a haven for the Taliban or worse?
My personal view sees no easy solution, and I personally feel that anybody who can state an answer to the Afghan question in a sentence or two is dangerously oversimplifying foreign policy. But still…what are we thinking right now about Afghanistan?