#oneaday Day 6: Korengal Valley: Perseverance of Goodwill, Military Blunder or Both?

E3 is winding down to its close, and my head is still throbbing from an information overload. I pondered for awhile today on if I’d actually write about E3 tonight, but to be truthful, I’ve had enough. Maybe that’ll be better suited for later in the week, once I’ve had time to sort and file everything away properly in my head. Instead, I’ve decided to share with you — my followers — a paper I recently wrote. It’s a subject that’s dear to my heart and I think you’ll find some enjoyment from it. So please, do just that. Enjoy.

Korengal Valley: Perseverance of Goodwill, Military Blunder or Both?

      Korengal Valley, Afghanistan – also known as “The Valley of Death” – has been the scene of near unfathomable violence over the course of three years, starting in the spring of 2007. What started off as an operation to clear out tight-knit bands of Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents, became an operation of extended military perseverance with a questionable cause – paralleling memories of the Vietnam War. But while many call this long battle a “military blunder,” others claim that it was a “perseverance of goodwill,” but are either of them correct?

The densely forested Korengal Valley is a narrow, six mile strip of land located in the mountainous northeast region of Afghanistan that was once the scene of prosperity for the locals that lived there. That was until the Afghani government tightened its iron grip and overran the valley with its oppressive dictatorship: sucking the life out of local business and thrusting its people into poverty. Oppressed and hopeless, the Korengal people were acceptant of what little help they could get, even when it was from anti-government terrorist groups, such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

In the spring of 2007, U.S. troops fought their way into the Korengal Valley with the purpose of trying to flush out these militant groups, attract other groups to this less populated area, as well as helping the Korengal people – hopefully gaining their trust in the process. But gaining ground in this volatile valley was far from easy. U.S. troops were like fish in a barrel as the daily gunfire and mortar blast rained down upon them from the mountains above. Each and every day was a struggle to gain higher ground against the endless surprise ambush attacks and the costs were indeed very high; forty-two U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the valley’s long war and hundreds more were wounded. Afghan forces saw an even higher casualty rate; making the Korengal Valley the bloodiest battleground throughout this decade long war.

Constant perseverance saw the troops through, eventually gaining them control of the militants’ high ground and control of the valley itself. Overtime weekly “shura” meetings with village elders sought to bring peace to the valley between the Korengal people and U.S. forces. By trying to persuade them to allow Americans to build a road from civilized Afghanistan to the rugged regions of the Korengal Valley, the people would finally have access to outside resources and hopefully regain their prosperity.  But the Korengal people remained resilient to any attempt of goodwill and the project stalled in 2007, when a contract crew was slaughtered by Taliban militants upon starting the project. Even with their resilience, U.S. forces continued their perseverance of goodwill to extend their help to the Korengal people to gain their trust, but that came to an end on April 14, 2010; when the valley was deemed to be at a complete stalemate, at which point U.S. forces were pulled out.

The ten months prior to American forces leaving the deadly valley, American forces only saw two casualties of war – one being a suicide. What was once the scene of daily ambush attacks became rare ambushes when the troops travelled to and from the villages as they attempted to work with the locals. It’s safe to say that the U.S. invasion into the Korengal Valley had a positive impact, as hundreds of opposing forces were neutralized in the process. However, as the valley trickled into a deadlock it seemed that the Korengal people only wanted the American forces to remove their presence in the end.

Today the war in many parts of the Middle East is still on-going, but an end is starting to break into view, as the Afghani government continues its daily struggle to stand on its own with the continued help of the U.S. Militaries Armed Forces. Off the beaten path places like the Korengal Valley will hopefully one day realize that American forces have lifted the iron-grip of the once diplomatic government and see that only by the many sacrifices given by American soldiers has this transition become a reality. The spirit of perseverance and goodwill to men is the foundation of America and while some will continue to turn a blind eye and call the war in the Korengal Valley a military blunder, others will always know that this extended fight in the volatile mountainous region of north-eastern Afghanistan, was nothing less than a true out-showing of the American spirit and love for another. War is hell and constantly changing, but underneath the pain and sacrifice lies a desire to bring the Afghani people a new life without oppression; hopefully they’ll open their eyes and realize before it’s too late.

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