by DAVID AXE
Nearly nine years into the Afghan war, many small valleys in mountainous eastern Afghanistan remain mostly off limits to NATO and Afghan troops. In their absence, smugglers, isolationists and religious extremists dominate. The U.S. Army recently launched a mission to re-establish a presence in one dangerous valley.
These soldiers with the 503rd Infantry Regiment face a risky mission. They intend to drive deep into the Chowkay Valley in eastern Kunar province, along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. NATO and Afghan government forces have avoided the region for years.
The Chowkay lies beyond the so-called “red line,” that marks the allies’ area of control. Here, the Taliban and other armed groups are the real powers. Farmers grow poppies, for the heroin that funds the Taliban insurgency.
When NATO troops cross the red line, the fighting is often fierce.
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