5 years, 3 months ago
From the BBC:
What happens when US forces pull out of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan? The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary, the first journalist to visit one of the areas the US left in Kunar province, uncovers a disturbing situation.
Kunar has always been a crucible of conflict. Tucked away in the north-eastern corner of Afghanistan, it borders Pakistan’s tribal badlands. It is one of the first ports of call for war-minded militants crossing the mountain passes.
But after the US-led invasion, troops began to assert their hold over the province. It is now littered with US and Nato bases and despite bloody battles there, the US invested heavily. Roads were asphalted, buildings renovated and a sense of security slowly developed. Villagers went about their business while infrastructure was put in place.
The US pulled out of parts of Kunar last year, beginning the withdrawal process. What has happened in the province since then makes for grim reading.
The new roads are now pock-marked with craters left by militants who plant bombs targeting Western and Afghan forces.
[ … ]
When I visited the picturesque Pech valley in the west of the province, a cloud of gloom hung over it.
In Barkanday village, I found a group of tribal elders brooding over their predicament: where once US forces were a deterrent to the Taliban, the Afghan government is notable only for its absence.
“It is Taliban across the river,” one elder said. “They are lying in wait. At the first opportunity, they will descend on the village to take their revenge,” he said, refusing to give his name for fear of retribution.
[ … ]
“When US forces left, they told us that our security was now the responsibility of the Afghan government,” Mohammad Akbar said. “But the Afghan government exists only in the district headquarters at Mano Gai.”
I did not come across a single soldier or official on my way there or during my four-hour stay. Villagers say development has also suffered.
Worthless Afghan National Army troops and corrupt Afghan National Police. It seems that someone should have said something about the ANA and ANP – you know, how the ANA were curled up in fetal positions under blankets during the battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating.
It seems that maybe I did say something about the whole population-centric counterinsurgency thing at one point.
[The Pech River Valley is] … strategically irrelevant to the campaign planners who focused their efforts on population-centric counterinsurgency and thus withdrew troops to redeploy in larger population centers. Not strategically irrelevant to me. Google the phrase Abandoning the Pech and see where TCJ lies in authority. I have supplied a surrogate conversation between flag officers when AQ returns to the Pech (which would be now), and argued that without hitting the Taliban’s recruiting grounds, fund raising and revenue development, training grounds, and logistical supply lines, the campaign cannot be won. I have pleaded that we not abandon the chase, and that we kill every last Taliban. Campaign management and I just disagree.
The Marines are pulling out of Afghanistan completely in 2012, and there is a general drawdown of all troops underway. If you’re deploying at the moment (and I know of some men who are), you have to wonder why, to what end, and whether you’re going to attempt to do anything other than survive the deployment?