The Korangal Valley is in the Eastern Afghanistan province of Kunar. In past years, it's been the setting of some fierce fighting--in 2009, more than 60 percent of insurgent incidents in Afghanistan occurred in Kunar Province. Some 42 Afghan and U.S. soldiers have been killed in operations there since 2005.
The 6-mile-long Korangal Valley was the site of Operation Red Wings, 28 JUN 2005, during which a 4-person SEAL team encountered a hostile force of 50 to 200 fighters. A rescue CH-47 Chinook helicopter was subsequently downed by a rocket propelled grenade, killing all eight SEALs and eight Army personnel aboard. Of the original SEAL team, only Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell survived the operation. He has since co-written a book, "Lone Survivor."
According to the New York Times, as of this week, U.S. soldiers will no longer man Korangal Outpost, or its satellite bases. The 14 APR 2010 article suggests that the outposts were no longer strategically necessary, but that soldiers were understandably ambivalent about leaving, given the amount of U.S. blood spilled there. Their comments are particularly noteworthy for those readers interested in the nuts-and-bolts of counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics:
“Everything on the other side of the valley is their terrain. Local people would talk to us, but everything they said we’d have to take with a grain of salt,” said [Staff Sgt. Brian Reed, Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment]. “It was impossible to tell who was on whose side. At times we’d be talking to an elder in the village and five minutes after he left, we’d start taking fire.”Readers interested in learning more about the Korangal Valley can look forward to "Restrepo," a 2010 Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary produced by photographer Tim Hetherington and writer Sebastian Junger. Starting in 2007, the team repeatedly embedded with a platoon of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers at a patrol base named after fallen medic Pfc. Juan Restrepo. The 90-minute documentary is slated to air on the National Geographic Channel in Fall 2010.
[First Lieutenant Brian Knapp] agreed. “You’re not going to win their hearts and minds if they’re not going to help themselves. We tried to bring them hydropower, wells, a road, like we do elsewhere, but here we’re a blocking position” — stopping insurgents from reaching more populated areas.
That sense was shared by several of the soldiers. “The whole point of counterinsurgency is that by securing the local population, you legitimize the government of Afghanistan,” said [Maj. James Fusseel, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who had spent time in the valley in 2004-05, and 2008-09]. “But the thing about the Korangal and Waygal Valleys is that they don’t recognize any government beyond their little village, and when you go to them and say, ‘we want to secure you and offer you a road’ they say, ‘we don’t want a road.’”
“I would argue you couldn’t find a single Korangali who wanted any outside assistance.”
Junger, author of such books as "The Perfect Storm" and "Fire," has also written "War," a book about his Korangal experiences. It is due for release 11 MAY 2010.
A final note: "SEAL of Honor," a biography of U.S. Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions during Operation Red Wings, is also due for release 05 MAY 2010.
UPDATE: Earlier today, one of my Facebook contacts pointed out a 2008-2010 MSNBC series of video reports from the Korengal Valley, including one filed this week. Visit the link here for free access to all seven videos. Must-see-TV for deploying soldiers!