American Soldiers Leave "Valley of Death"

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NBC Nightly News
Brian Williams/Richard Engel
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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For the last 4 1/2 years the Korengal has been known as Afghanistan's 'Valley of Death,' where U.S. troops braved 1,000 gunfights to hold just six miles and 42 men lost their lives. NBC's Richard Engel returns as soldiers pack up and prepare to leave the area.



"American Soldiers Leave "Valley of Death"." Richard Engel, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 14 Apr. 2010. NBC Learn. Web. 8 September 2018.


Engel, R. (Reporter), & Williams, B. (Anchor). (2010, April 14). American Soldiers Leave "Valley of Death". [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"American Soldiers Leave "Valley of Death"" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 04/14/2010. Accessed Sat Sep 8 2018 from NBC Learn:


American Soldiers Leave "Valley of Death"


Now to an extraordinary story tonight, direct from the front lines of America's war in Afghanistan. For several years now, our own Richard Engel has covered the fierce fighting at one particular outpost in the Korengal Valley. Forty-two Americans have died defending it, and this week the Americans have pulled out. Richard has won numerous awards for his work there, always preferring, of course, to focus instead on the sacrifice of the men you're about to see. Here now our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel from Afghanistan.

RICHARD ENGEL reporting:

For the last four and a half years, the Korengal has been known as Afghanistan's valley of death.

Unidentified Soldier #1: We're taking heavy fire from...

ENGEL: American soldiers braved a thousand gunfights to hold just six miles. We've been following the Korengal for a year and a half.

Unidentified Soldier #2: Christ almighty.

ENGEL: And witnessed firsthand the intense guerrilla war...

We came under attack...

That killed 42 Americans here. This time we returned to watch soldiers pack up, taking away 500,000 pounds of satellite equipment and cases of unused ammunition. It was all loaded into cargo nets and, under the cover of darkness, slung under transport helicopters. What was too heavy or too dangerous to move was disposed of by demolition expert Staff Sergeant Gary French. French said the Taliban will pick over the base as soon as US troops leave.

Staff Sergeant GARY FRENCH: I would say they'd be here within 15, 20 minutes.

ENGEL: So the demolition team brought in 10,000 pounds of high explosive.

Group of Soldiers: (In unison) Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!

ENGEL: Just moments ago there was a building here full of munitions. Now there's just a field of debris, some of it still smoldering and hot. The US military is blowing up this outpost piece by piece. The soldiers don't want to leave anything useful behind for the Taliban.

So why did US troops decide to leave the Korengal? The valley was just too remote, too difficult to resupply and too dangerous, like the isolated outpost called Restrepo. We climbed back up to Restrepo this week. The new platoon leader here, Lieutenant Andrew Davis, was burning sensitive documents and maps and spray painting over old Army insignia so the Taliban can't use it to insult the US military. Davis told us his men tried, but were never able to win over the suspicious people of the Korengal.

Lieutenant ANDREW DAVIS: It's just not worth it to sit around and waste all of our resources and try and work with people who aren't willing to work with you.

ENGEL: Two nights later, there were more controlled detonations, more base destruction. And from the bottom of a mountain, we watched Restrepo burn.

But leaving the Korengal is emotional for some Americans who served here.

Specialist Robert Soto lost eight friends in the valley a year ago. He's now on a humanitarian mission in Haiti.

Specialist ROBERT SOTO: I feel as if they looked at the situation years ago, they probably could have came up with the same solution. Would have saved a lot of guys from our unit's lives.

ENGEL: Back in the Korengal, the flag was lowered for the last time as the Army now moves on. Richard Engel, NBC News, Korengal.