U.S. says not 'abandoning' critical Pech Valley but repositioning troops in Afghanistan

Kabul, Feb 25(ANI): The United States military is planning a significant repositioning of its troops that would reduce the number of bases in eastern Afghanistan, which was once central to its campaign against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

The changes would cut the number of U.S. troops strung out in bases throughout the Pech Valley, near the border with Pakistan.

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.

Major General John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan, said that the valley consumed resources disproportionate with its importance, and stressed that the forces could be deployed in other areas.

"People say, 'You are coming out of the Pech'; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people. I don't want the impression we're abandoning the Pech," the New York Times quoted Major General Campbell, as saying.

"If you continue to stay with the status quo, where will you be a year from now? I would tell you that there are places where we'll continue to build up security and it leads to development and better governance, but there are some areas that are not ready for that, and I've got to use the forces where they can do the most good," he added.

U.S. commanders are hoping to complete the shift over the next several months, but are still working to win the support of senior Afghan officials.

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 Major Turab, the former second-in-command of an Afghan battalion in the valley.

"It will be a suicidal mission," he added. (ANI)

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