The U.S. military will start carrying out more counterterrorism missions against insurgents in eastern Afghanistan and work more closely with Pakistani forces in operations against insurgents along the porous and rugged frontier, the U.S. general commanding the region said.

Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commander of NATO coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, said he has been repositioning some of his troops since last August to make them more effective in the region that borders Pakistan. The area has seen an upsurge in violence and is a main route for insurgents infiltrating into Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions.

The realignment of troops will allow more force to be used against insurgents and shore up security along a key trade route from Pakistan to the Afghan capital.

“As we realign forces it does give me the ability to provide additional forces in other areas,” Campbell said in a weekend interview with The Associated Press.

One of the most significant moves is the reduction of U.S. troops in bases along the remote Pech River Valley— a rugged and mountainous area in Kunar province near the Pakistani border that has seen fierce fighting in recent years.

Campbell said the forward operating bases and remote combat outposts in the valley did not provide the flexibility needed to use the forces more effectively.

“You know there are thousands of mountainous isolated valleys out there where we don’t have forces and so I can’t be everywhere and I just have to prioritize the resources,” he said.

Pech and the neighboring Korengal Valley have been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the nearly 10-year-old Afghan war. U.S. troops pulled out of Korengal just over a year ago, saying that it was not strategically important. Forty-two Americans died in Korengal before the troops pulled out.

“I don’t want people to think that we are abandoning Pech, we are not doing that. We are going to be able to go in there a lot more,” Campbell said. “I am taking forces that were static at positions … and providing them the flexibility to be able to do (counterterrorism)-type operations.”

Source: Patrick Quinn for the Associated Press.

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