US withdrawal in Afghanistan mirrors Soviet history


Well-Known Member
Apr 4, 2008
"..The Pentagon is withdrawing its forces from the northeastern Pech Valley in Afghanistan that it had previously insisted was strategically vital to the US war, now in its tenth year.

The pullback, which began on February 15, is expected to be completed over the next two months, according to a report Friday in the New York Times. It will see the US military abandon a string of combat outposts along the river valley, where over 100 US troops have been killed and many hundreds more wounded since they first moved into the area in 2003.

This pullback is only the latest in a series of withdrawals. The US military retreated from the neighboring Korengal Valley to the south last April, after 42 soldiers had died and hundreds more had been wounded in three years of fighting. In October of 2009, it pulled out of Nuristan Province to the north, where four main bases were abandoned after nearly being overrun in a series of battles over the previous year.

Some US officers have stressed that each withdrawal has emboldened the armed groups resisting the US occupation, leading them to expand their attacks into other areas.

The strategic significance of the Pech Valley is underscored by the role it played in the disintegration of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It was the scene of some of the bitterest fighting from the Soviet intervention in 1979 until 1988, when Moscow decided to pull its troops out of the valley. Within a few months, the mujahedin resistance fighters had defeated the Soviet-backed Afghan army in the valley, and by 1989, the Soviet military had withdrawn in defeat.

The valley is one of the main arteries through the area, which borders on Pakistan and has been a key transit point for Pashtun resistance fighters crossing freely over the Durand Line, the arbitrary border imposed by British imperialism that divides the Pashtun populations of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

American military deployment in the area was previously seen as key to a counterinsurgency strategy, which held that the resistance could only be defeated to the extent that US troops deployed among Afghan villages and not just in the major cities. Along with the setting up of remote forward operating bases, the US carried out major investments in the area, including $7.5 million for the building of a new road.

A review of this strategy begun under General Stanley McChrystal and accelerated under his replacement, General David Petraeus, led to the conclusion that the Pech deployment was unsustainable and that replicating the use of troops being carried out in the valley throughout Afghanistan would require an occupation force of at least 600,000.

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