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Insecurity feared as US forces leave Pech Dara

Insecurity feared as US forces leave Pech Dara

Feb 26, 2011 - 16:07

ASADABAD (PAN): The withdrawal of foreign forces from a remote valley in eastern Kunar province would lead to insecurity and help militants retake the valley, officials and residents feared on Saturday.

US-led coalition forces have started leaving Pech Dara area, Manogai district chief, Haji Sher Bahadar, told Pajhwok Afghan News. Some of them currently staying in the area are likely to leave in a day or two.

The troops were being moved to Watapur district, he said, warning that the valley could fall back into Taliban's hands. "Afghan forces need air support; otherwise, they are unable to protect their own posts," Sher Bahadar said.

Government and NGO officials feared travelling the highway between the provincial capital Asadabad and Pech Dara for security reasons, he said, adding the situation would worsen with the departure of the troops.

The Korengal Valley was overrun by the Taliban insurgents after foreign troops abandoned it a year ago, the district chief recalled.

Faridullah, a tribal elder, also opposed the pullout. He said the move would result in instability in the valley and fighting could spread to Asadabad.

Resident Habibullah said that Afghan forces lacked resources, particularly air power, to defend the area people.

But the district council chief said the withdrawal would help them judge militants' intentions. "The opponents always say they are fighting only foreigners. We will see what they do after the pullout," Yar Pacha said.

A spokesman for the coalition forces, Lt. Col. Patrick R. Seiber that the US forces were not leaving Pech Dara. The forces were instead repositioning to allow for greater flexibility in the valley but other areas of eastern Afghanistan, he explained.  

In fact, he said, one of the locations in Pech Dara was expanding. Seiber added coalition and Afghan forces proved this past year that the insurgents had no sanctuary in that part of the country as the combined forces had conducted offensive operations in Pech Dara, as well as Watapur.

"Repositioning forces from static locations frees up more forces to conduct more offensive operations not only in that area, but other areas as needed in that part of Afghanistan," he concluded.