Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

In Abandoning the Pech Valley Operator Dan of This Ain’t Hell said:

Surrendering ground and outposts provides a propaganda victory for the Taliban. In conventional military terms, it provides them terrain from which they can rest, refit, and launch attacks. First it was the Korengal, now its the Pech, and next they will be knocking on the door of Abad and then Kunar is truly lost.

Remember, the Muj took control of the Eastern Provinces first and eventually used them to attack Kabul in the early 1990s’ against the Afghan Communists. A few of them (most of the Muj from then actually have aligned with us) have done this before.

And Dirty Mick, who has been there before, said:

I’m curious if 1/327 Battalion commander has a short memory. I was in Kunar when 2/12 infantry left the Korengal last April/May during the spring offensive when 1st and 2nd Battalion 327 took over Kunar. We got slammed all summer. The Taliban took it as a victory and scores of soldiers were killed and wounded during the summer. So what happens if we pull out of the Pech. Well I can gaurentee it will be another victory for the Taliban and every COP south of Asadabad will get attacked more frequently (fortress, joyce, penich, and badel already get attacked often) and it will eventually flow into nangahar province (where Jbad is).

By his rational if the insurgents in Sadr City, Mosul, Baghdad, Tal Afar, Ramadi, and Fallujah didn’t want us there then I guess we should have pulled out and left. By his way of thinking we should have never done the surge in Iraq in 2007. In order to Achieve Victory (yes I said it) we need to be aggressive and kill Taliban wherever they hide and lurk. It amazes me with these senior officers in the Army and Marine Corp it’s like they’re constantly reinventing the wheel or discovering fire for the first time. Disgraceful.

Just to pile disgrace on top of disgrace, reporter Harry Sanna who was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division, gives us this perspective based on his recent time there.

“Many parts of the east are still highly unstable. In the Pech Valley, it’s not uncommon for firefights between the U.S. soldiers and insurgent groups to break out five or six times a day. If they go ahead with their planned withdrawal from area, there are obvious ramifications that must be addressed. Namely, are the Afghan forces ready to take over security and, if not, who will step into the power vacuum created?

“I suppose what struck me the most from my time in Kunar was the widespread lack of knowledge as to what outcomes the withdrawal would create. Many Afghan soldiers expressed skepticism in their own army’s ability to hold the ground without international assistance. Many locals, including the scores of contractors hired from nearby villages that work on U.S. bases, did not know what to expect after foreigners left the valley. Anxiety is running fairly high, that much is obvious,” he said.

Well, Harry, here’s the deal.  We won’t have to wait until 2014 to find out what will happen to the Pech Valley when we withdraw.  In a tip of the hat to the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency, we intend to leave it well before then and head for the cities, just like the Russians did.

Here is a tip for future reading, study and, well, let’s be frank – wading through the misdirects that both the MSM and military PR sends your way.  When you hear the reflexive, tired, worn out mantra that we are having difficulty defeating the Taliban and those forces aligned with AQ because Pakistan simply won’t go into their safe havens and root them out, this is a nothing but a magic trick, a sleight of hand, a smoke screen, a ruse.  The issue is fake.  It’s a well-designed farce.

Oh, to be sure, the U.S. would indeed like for the Pakistanis to go kill all of the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban and AQ affiliated groups so that we don’t have to deal with them in Afghanistan.  But we have the ideal chance to address the problem head on in the Pech Valley and other areas near the AfPak border – that Durand line that exists only as a figment of our imaginations.  Essentially, much of the Hindu Kush is available for us to do the same thing we want Pakistan to do, and in fact, if we began actually doing this, Pakistan might be persuaded to allow readier access to Pakistani soil (once they see we are serious about the campaign).

Instead of going after them in their safe havens, we want to focus on the population centers, set up governance, and assume that the criminals and thugs we leave in charge will be a better choice to the people than aligning themselves with the Taliban.  How’s that plan going?



  • DirtyMick

    What upsets me the most is all the blood, sweat, and tears put into Kunar (or any province or AO) by thousands of Infantryman who have rotated in Kunar over the years will be for nothing. I sometimes question what is the point of going back on deployment after deployment and fighting these wars when it seems to be for nothing. The platoon and company level officers, enlisted and NCOs do the bulk of the work and higher *&#@ it all up.

  • Scarbelly79

    I was with DirtyMick in Asadabad during 2009-2010; I felt like our time was wasted in large part to satisfy the egos and experimentations of everyone who wanted to show how nuanced they were, and how we were going to make a lasting impact by NOT killing the enemy… An old vet told me once that “when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”.

    It’s bad enough that Army and Marine Corps field grade officers are unwilling to risk their careers by granting air and indirect fire assets to troops in contact… We have Navy surface warfare officers and Air Force admin officers “leading” PRT’s; most of them without applicable experience or training – but trying desperately to pick up their O6 as they blame the Army and Marine Corps for screwing everything up.

    The Pashtuns are not suicidal fanatics, they are brigands. We won’t win them to our side by bribing them with roads (when many of them don’t own cars), hospitals (without doctors to staff them), or electricity (when most of them don’t own televisions). We will win them to our side by effectively separating the militant Taliban from the general populace by hunting them down and killing them.

  • ArtyKing

    In response to DirtyMick’s quote: “I’m curious if 1/327 Battalion commander has a short memory. I was in Kunar when 2/12 infantry left the Korengal last April/May during the spring offensive when 1st and 2nd Battalion 327 took over Kunar. We got slammed all summer…”

    Well, I’m serving with the 1-327 IN REG, and thus, I serve directly under LTC Ryan (Task Force Bulldog BN CDR). I can tell you this: he doesn’t have a short memory … he DOES understand what is going on here … and he is not an ignorant or disgraceful officer. And, you’re right – we did get slammed all summer, and still are.

    Everybody on here makes some VERY valid points, and I will agree with most of what you all are saying. But, being here on the front lines in the Pech Valley, I will stand by my BN CDR – and it’s not because he’s reading this or because I’m out for promotions or awards. Far from it.

    The problem with most of what is going on here (or lack thereof) rests at echelons WAY above LTC Ryan’s or my BCT CDR’s level. You need to look at IJC and ISAF – bottom line. We have done everything we can here with the troop levels and assets we have been given. Without more assets and troops, we are just sustaining in the Pech.

  • DirtyMick

    ArtyKing,
    I agree with what you’re saying but when a Battalion Commander goes on video and says something to the effect of “I can see reasons why we need to be here and reasons not to be here.” It just adds more fuel to the fire. We can pass the buck all day long up the chain of command (I agree IJC and ISAF is mostly to blame) but that is not the right answer. There needs to be accountability. If we’re not here to secure victory then it needs to be said and we need to go home. Don’t put it under the guise of we’re pulling out of the rural areas to secure the more populated cities (what Asadabad?! that place isn’t even 50,000 people I’d imagine). Anybody who says that is a fool and anybody who believes that is a fool. Then again I need to accept the reality that the decision is ultimately up to people with a lot more rank than myself. I hope a decision is made because there’s no point in us going over there and putting blood, sweat, and tears into that country when nobody echelons above our paygrade want to secure victory or fight COIN the correct way.

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You are currently reading "Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II", entry #6270 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Counterinsurgency,Pech River Valley and was published February 10th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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