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Nato troops pull out of flashpoint Taliban valley

14 April 10 12:44 GMT

Nato troops in Afghanistan have pulled out of the isolated eastern Korengal valley, commanders say.

The valley in Kunar province is a Taliban stronghold where Nato argues that continued military operations only serve to fuel their insurgency.

US General Stanley McChrystal said last year that he would take a hard look at the valley as part of a strategic review of troop deployments.

He said he wanted to ensure that the focus was on key population centres.

The Korengal valley has a reputation as one of most dangerous areas in the country.

Analysts say that its rugged mountainous terrain with numerous hiding places suits the Taliban's guerrilla tactics.

The valley has seen fierce fighting between Nato and the Taliban, who use it as a route for smuggling weapons and fighters into Afghanistan.

"This repositioning, in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces, responds to the requirements of the new population-centric counter-insurgency strategy," Lt Gen David M Rodriguez, joint commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

"The move does not prevent forces from rapidly responding, as necessary, to crises there in Korengal and in other parts of the region, as well."

The redeployment coincides with the arrival of an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, most on missions to drive the Taliban from populated areas and provide sufficient security to allow the authorities to bring about economic recovery.

Three US Navy special forces were killed in Korengal in an ambush in 2005, while a helicopter carrying American special forces sent to rescue them was shot down, killing 16 American troops in one of the deadliest single attacks since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001.

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