World News

NATO troops leave remote eastern Afghanistan valley

KABUL (Reuters) - NATO troops have pulled out of the isolated Korengal valley in eastern Afghanistan, an insurgent battleground area where the U.S. and NATO commander in the past has suggested military operations fueled opposition.

U.S. General Stanley McChrystal last year said he would take a hard look at the valley as part of a strategy review to ensure his troops were focused on securing key population centres rather than remote areas where insurgents hide out.

“The question in the Korengal is: How many of those fighters, if left alone, would ever come out of there to fight?” McChrystal told the Washington Post at the time.

“I can’t answer it. But I do sense that you create a lot of opposition through operations.”

U.S. commanders had been debating whether to increase U.S. forces in the valley to root out the insurgents, keep forces level or leave the area, the Post had reported.

In a statement on Wednesday, NATO forces said troops had begun leaving the Korengal valley in March but they could still respond to crises in the area if needed.

“The area was once very operationally important, but appropriate to the new strategy, we are focusing our efforts on population centres,” U.S. Army Colonel Randy George said in the statement.

U.S. forces have been pulling out of other remote outposts in eastern Afghanistan, where troops trying to control passes used by Taliban fighters have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of insurgents more familiar with the treacherous terrain.

Eight U.S. soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters stormed outposts near the Pakistan border in October.

Reporting by Deepa Babington; Editing by Jerry Norton