U.S. soldiers are struggling to secure remote areas of Afghanistan, like the Korengal Valley in the east, that have recently seen increased outbreaks of violence and military leaders say are crucial to stability in the cities. Margaret Warner reports from Afghanistan.
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Four more U.S. military personnel were killed [in Afghanistan] over the weekend. The U.S. military effort is the subject of tonight's report from Margaret Warner. She will be reporting from Afghanistan throughout this week.
From a few thousand feet up, eastern Afghanistan is a knock-out. But these fertile valleys and jagged peaks shelter legions of anti-government fighters, and they're proving a thorny challenge to the United States as it tries to turn the tide of a war it thought it had won years ago.
MAJ. GEN. JEFFREY SCHLOESSER, Commander, Regional Command East:
So this is definitely a contested valley; there's no doubt about it. There are, you know, insurgent groups that are in here.
We are flying with Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, a 32-year Army veteran. He's commanding general of the U.S.-run security sector of Afghanistan, known as Regional Command East.
Schloesser is on a whirlwind tour of several troop outposts under his command. He says the fight against the Taliban in his region is particularly tough because of its historic hostility to outsiders and its proximity to the near-lawless western regions of Pakistan.
MAJ. GEN. JEFFREY SCHLOESSER:
They still retain a safe haven right across the border. And you saw, as we flew up here, it's not very far away.
And then, two, we are really increasing the amount of troops on the ground in R.C. East in eastern Afghanistan. And they're getting out amongst areas that — where there were insurgents, and they are making them upset, and they're fighting back.
It is not just control of the east that's at stake here. It is the security of the whole country. Attacks are up in several areas. U.S., coalition and Afghan troop deaths soared nationwide last year.
The danger was evident at a Korengal Valley outpost that had taken fire just 90 minutes before we arrived. A unit of the Afghan National Army, or ANA, shares this outpost with Viper Company of the U.S. Army's 26th Infantry Regiment. And Afghan soldiers man the exposed observation posts around it.
Twenty-two-year-old ANA Sergeant Muhammad Ibrahim was on the ridge when his post was shot at, to no effect.
SGT. MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM, Afghan National Army (through translator):
We do not know the exact place the fire came from. Every time they want to shoot, they are shooting from different places.