US forces in Afghanistan leave base after attack
U.S. forces have withdrawn from an isolated base in eastern Afghanistan after a fierce insurgent attack last week that marked one of the deadliest battles of the war for U.S. troops, the NATO-led coalition said Friday, AP reported.
The pullout of troops and equipment from the Kamdesh outpost near the Pakistan border is likely to embolden insurgent fighters in the region. The Taliban claimed "victory" for pushing the forces out and said they had raised their flag above the town.
The NATO coalition said the withdrawal had been planned well before the Oct. 3 battle and was part of a wider strategy outlined by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has said for months he plans to shut down such isolated strongholds to focus on more heavily populated areas in an effort to protect civilians.
The Kamdesh base was largely burned down during the fierce gunbattle that left eight Americans, three Afghans and an estimated 100 insurgents dead, according to NATO.
U.S. Master Sgt. Thomas Clementson said coalition forces destroyed what was left of the outpost.
Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the U.S. bombarded the outpost with airstrikes after leaving, as well as the local police headquarters.
"This means they are not coming back," Mujahid said. "This is another victory for Taliban. We have control of another district in eastern Afghanistan."
"Right now, Kamdesh is under our control, and the white flag of the Taliban is raised above Kamdesh."
In a statement Friday, the NATO-led force said the move was "part of a previously scheduled transfer."
It said "troops and equipment were moved ... to other locations in eastern Afghanistan in preparation for future assignment to more populated areas."