Alexander the Great lost a column of troops in Tangi Valley during his Afghan Campaign. During the 80's, the Mujahideen in Wardak and Logar Provinces destroyed an entire Soviet division during fighting in the valley. This is a place of resistance and violence, and has been for two thousand years.
Tangi Valley is a few minutes flying time west of FOB Shank. While I was with TF Brawler, we had a small combat outpost located on one side of the valley in a natural bowl created by hills and ridges. There was a company from the 173rd Airborne based there, and they had their hands full trying to conduct COIN operations. Later, elements from the 10th Mountain's 4th Brigade took over the COP. In the spring of 2011, the base was abandoned by the 10th Mountain and was supposed to be handed over to the Afghan National Army and National Police. Crews from Bravo 1-168 Aviation airlifted the last Americans out of the valley just before coming home. Unfortunately, the ANA never took the base over. It was abandoned, and according to an army spokesman who was quoted in an AP article last week, COP Tangi ended up in Taliban hands. Here is the quote as reported by the AP:
"We deemed it not to be strategic and closed it,” said coalition spokesman, U.S. Army Maj. Jason Waggoner. “The Taliban went in and occupied it because it was vacant.”
I understand Major Waggoner was trying to spin a setback, but saying this place wasn't strategic does a tremendous disservice to all the Afghan and American personnel killed, wounded or traumatized trying to bring order and peace to the valley. Their effort was for a strategic purpose: the road through the valley is one of the few east-west routes in the area that links to Highway One. Now, it was another part of Afghanistan that has slipped away from the Coalition, and it is a loss. It remains a haven for Taliban forces, who can use Tangi as a springboard to launch attacks throughout Wardak and Logar Provinces, and even up to Kabul.
Last Friday, we lost a Chinook, 38 Coalition servicemen and an Afghan 'terp during an operation in Tangi Valley. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to every family member and friend who lost somebody in that firefight. Hoping for better days ahead for all of us.