The New York Times describes in an ambush executed by a First Infantry Division platoon on an equivalently sized Taliban unit in the Korangal Valley, resulting in the death of 13 enemy and perhaps many more. The NYT says that “The one-sided fight, fought on the slopes of the same mountain where a Navy Seal patrol was surrounded in 2005 and a helicopter with reinforcements was shot down, does not change the war. … But as accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province, who have seen it as a both a validation of their equipment and training and a welcome bit of score-settling in an area that in recent years has claimed more American lives than any other.”
The Korangal Valley has been described by some publications as the “valley of death”. The importance of the Korangal, apart from its geographical location along the Pech River, is that it is rumored to play an important part in sheltering and perhaps hosting al-Qaeda’s command operations. As far back as 2006 the Asia Times was describing its supposedly special role in lurid detail
The Korengal was regarded as a key area by the Russians and the subject of operations by the USMC and other units. But perhaps there is nothing special about the Korengal so much as its representativeness of the kind of tough war that the US must fight. Deployed among small outposts in according to doctrine and necessity, the men must gain military ascendancy over their enemy in order to get out and win over with the population. It is possible that the tasks are actually one and the same and the episode described by the NYT by a line unit of Army infantry is a benchmark both sides are watching. Not just other Coaliton soldiers, but the tribal population are watching the contest for supremacy on the ground. The Taliban have long known that the US were their superiors in modern military technology, but to see a Taliban unit so thoroughly annihilated by regular infantry using organic weaponry is not only a morale booster for US troops, but probably something of a shock to the Taliban. They’ll be wondering what it means; whether just the luck on the day or something deeper.
I hope to be back to my old blogging schedule in a couple of days. In meantime, here’s a photo I took of three surfers at Bethells beach on New Zealand’s North Island.