Afghanistan: Korengal Outpost ceded abandoned, ceded to Taliban


Adam Weinstein pre-empts the chicken hawk criticism that will be irresponsibly directed at Obama Administration’s Pentagon after the US Army’s withdrawal from the outpost in Korengal Valley.

That’s all well and good, being the opinion of someone—like yours truly—who has the luxury of unfettered Web access, warm dinners, and big opinions. It’s also diametrically opposed to the opinion of at least one soldier who fought at the outpost, losing half his platoon. “It confuses me, why it took so long for them to realize that we weren’t making progress up there,” he told the New York Times.

Let’s hope the right wing won’t join forces with Taliban yokels in second-guessing the generals over this business. As the Journal story made clear, our Army is now led by generals who do enough second-guessing for all of us, in terms that sometimes sound eerily similar to those the antiwar movement has used for eight years:

Asked about moving out of the valley after losing so many men here, Gen. McChrystal said: “I care deeply about everyone who’s been hurt here. But I can’t do anything about that. I can do something about people hurt in the future.”

via US Hands Base Over to Taliban | Mother Jones.

Basically, the costs did not justify the reward and US commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal believes that leaving this outpost will not make or break US efforts in Afghanistan. The area is a rural one, with a rare regional language being spoken and a generally anti-foreigner cultural orientation. McChrystal seeks to focus the forces around urban population centers. Al Jazeera reports on the Taliban movement on to this base:

IN the video below, NBC News’ Richard Engel profiles the Forward Operating Base demolition team charged with destroying the base, the strategic reasons for leaving as well as the need to decimate the outpost:

Sebastion Junger, a former embedded reporter in Afghanistan, let’s us in on how some of the soldiers who fought at this outpost for years feel about this strategic decision.

In that sense, the Korengal was literally sacred ground. Every man in Battle Company lost a good friend there, and every man was nearly killed there. These soldiers did not require “strategic importance” or “national interest” to give the place value — it already had that in spades.

Outpost Restrepo was named after Juan Restrepo, a platoon medic who was killed on July 22, 2007. He was one of the best-liked men in the platoon, and his death was devastating. The men took enormous pride in the outpost they built, and they can now go online and watch videotape of it being blown up by an American demolition team. It is a painful experience for many of them, and in recent days, e-mail messages have flown back and forth as the men have tried to come to terms with it. One man became increasingly overwrought from watching the video over and over again, wondering what all the sacrifice had been for. Another soldier finally intervened.

“They might have pulled out but they can’t take away what we accomplished and how hard we fought there,” he wrote to his distraught comrade. “The base is a base, we all knew it would sooner or later come down. But what Battle Company did there cannot be blown up, ripped down or burned down. Remember that.”

via Op-Ed Contributor – Farewell to Korengal –

Junger profiled now abandoned Outpost Restrepo for Vanity Fair in January 2008.