As the nation's military focus shifts to Afghanistan, Sebastian Junger of Vanity Fair spends time with US troops fighting “ambush by ambush” in the 6-mile Korengal Valley in the tense northeast. The region, Junger says, is a “test case” for fighting insurgencies and a prime example of the risky—but perhaps necessary, given the mountainous terrain— US strategy of setting up small bases to better work with the local populace.
"If the American forces can’t even bring this small valley under tactical control, one can imagine that they don’t stand a chance with Afghanistan as a whole," writes Junger. The Taliban, of course, know this, too, and are tailoring their own tactics to better attack the small bases. Still, after repeat visits, Junger finds that the "results have been tentatively encouraging." It’s “an economic fight,” explains an officer, and as money trickles in, the Americans are making more friends.