It is very rare for an article to influence policy. However, the Institute for the Study of War has achieved this distinction through its article on Kunar and Nuristan by Michael Moore and James Fussell, which made the case for a US withdrawal from this area and whose recommendations were implemented early this year. Kunar and Nuristan border Bajaur, Mohmand, Dir and Chitral and are an isolated and extremely mountainous area of Afghanistan of no strategic value. The only reason the US decided to send troops to the region was that because of its isolation it had become a major infiltration route and sanctuary for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda . However, counter insurgency proved difficult to apply in this sparsely populated area and the US forces were disproportionately committed to defending marginally significant areas in these remote provinces. Prior to 1896 Nuristan was called Kafiristan and Amir Abdul Rehman converted the population to Islam after the area had been demarcated by the Durand Line. Perhaps, this is the reason why the population is so fanatic, fighting with the zeal of the recently converted and providing bases to extremist parties like the Salafis, Wahabis and Hizb-e-Islami (Gulbudin), which have difficulty in establishing themselves in other parts of Afghanistan where ethnic and tribal loyalties are more important .The population is of Kunar is 95 percent Pashtun and the Northern districts speak Pashai. Nuristan has always had a well established tradition of fundamentalism and it was here that the first revolt against the communist rule began in 1978, and the first uprising against the Soviet occupation in 1980. It was also the first area from which the Russian troops withdrew, for the same reasons as the US withdrawal. This historical hostility to any outside foreign influence, including Afghans from outside the valley meant that the presence of US forces generated violence. The US force disposition also relied, too, heavily on isolated outposts that required massive amounts of air power and artillery to defend, which was counterproductive in dealing with the insurgency, because their use alienated the population that the US was trying to save. With only two battalions for the area the forces were stretched extremely thin with an average of only 70 men for 100 miles of the border. The result was that the US had to use annually 30,000 rounds of artillery, 8,000 mortars and 3,000 tonnes of bombs to safeguard their forces and through road building sought to expand their security bubble. The US troops built fixed positions along the main line of communication which acted as 'Taliban magnets or 'bullet sponges. The failure to dominate the heights meant that the US forces could not deny the insurgents from operating in the area or protect the population but could only bring to bear their overwhelming fire power. The US troops were therefore forced to pursue a defensive 'counter punch strategy whereby they drew in the enemy and then counter attacked with superior fire power. This approach was neither sustainable nor conducive to waging a counter insurgent strategy since it was alienating the very population it was trying to secure. Facing the US was an insurgent force of 7,000 to 11,000 fighters from the Taliban, Al-Qaeda , Haqqani group , Salafi Taliban , Hizb-i-Islami (Gulbudin), TTP, TNSM, LeT and Jaish-i-Mohammed. According to Thomas Ruttig, writing in the Afghan Analyst Network, the Salafi from Kunar have now pledged allegiance to the Deobandi Taliban led by Mullah Omar. The original leader of Jamaat Al Dawa Al Sunnat, Maulvi Jamilur Rehman had established an Islamic emirate during the jihad against the Russians. Initially from the Jamiat-i-Islami he had joined Hizb-i-Islami in 1991. However, encroachments by the Shura-i-Nazar, which slowly pushed out other factions from Kunar administrative positions and possibly the ethnic spilt along the Nuristani-Badakshani fault line, could also have been the reasons for the Salafis joining the mainstream Taliban in Kunar reportedly coordinated by Maulvi Kabir. The area was economically depressed with 90 percent subsistence farmers and a similar percentage of males of fighting age were unemployed providing a large pool of poor, young, uneducated, unemployed highly impressionable young men, who were prime targets for insurgent recruitment. The US strategy of using excessive fire power had become unsustainable as it had met its match against this inexhaustible supply of manpower and after eight years of effort the US was no closer to meeting its goals of 'clear, hold, build and transfer than when it had started . The report had therefore recommended that forces must be redeployed to areas where they had greater effect and resources must flow to the areas that are strategic positions in order to allow force densities high enough to produce counter insurgency efficiencies. This logic was accepted by the US as it was by the Russians before them. There were never enough soldiers to pursue a practical counterinsurgency strategy and it became clear there was not much worth winning in these sparsely populated valleys. Putting bases there was in retrospect a costly mistake and shows how choices made from a lack of understanding or consultation with the locals can drive the population into the arms of the insurgents. The withdrawal would also provide an opportunity to consolidate and refocus forces where they might change the momentum of what had become a losing contest .While tactically correct and rational the withdrawal will nevertheless encourage the insurgents and provide them with a psychological victory, reconfirming the reputation of Kunar and Nuristan as a 'cradle of jihad. For Pakistan the withdrawal will create additional problems in dealing with the insurgents in Bajaur, Mohmand and Dir as now they would have free access across the border. The writer is a former ambassador.