US troops will begin pulling out in March 2011 from bases throughout the Key eastern Pech Valley in Kunar Province. In late May 2010, U.S. forces pulled out of the adjacent Korengal Valley which is also in Kunar Province. The U.S. military has maintained a battalion of about 800 troops in the valley since 2006, and they have consistently been involved in some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of a province where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own. "According to my experience in the military and knowledge of the area, it's absolutely impractical for the Afghan National Army to protect the area without the Americans," said a former Commander of an Afghan National Army battalion. Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak said he was concerned about what could happen if U.S. troops have left their bases in the Pech Valley. "It will be difficult for Afghans to hold these areas on their own. The terrain there is very tough," Wardak told the Washington Post.
The insurgents watching the Americans go out of the Pech and Korengal Valleye will embolden them to continue the war. In their view they soon will have liberated Kunar from the invaders and have defeated them. The next Province to fall may be Nuristan.
During the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Pech valley, located near the border with Pakistan, was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting between the Afghan resistance and Soviet soldiers.
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