31 Americans Killed After Chopper Is Shot Down In Afghanistan

A disastrous day for American troops in Afghanistan.

Today was the deadliest day for American troops of the nearly ten year old Afghan War:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents shot down a NATO Chinook helicopter during an overnight operation in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 37 people on board, a coalition military official said on Saturday. It was believed to be the deadliest helicopter crash in the nearly decade-long war, punctuating a surge of violence across the country even as American and NATO forces begin a modest drawdown of troops.

Afghan military officials put the death toll at 38, including 31 Americans and 7 Afghan commandos. President Hamid Karzai’s office, in a statement, described the American casualties as members of the Special Operations forces. The coalition official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it, confirmed that most of the dead were NATO forces, but could not immediately identify their nationalities or the units to which they belonged.

“The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has expressed his condolences to the U.S. President Barack Obama and to the families of the victims,” Mr. Karzai’s office said in the statement.

The helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Tangi Valley of the Wardak Province just west of Kabul, the coalition official said. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack.

If confirmed, Saturday’s crash would be the deadliest day for American forces since the war began. A NATO spokesman, Capt. Justin Brockhoff of the United States Air Force, confirmed the crash but could provide no further information, including what caused the crash or whether there were casualties.

There were conflicting accounts about when the helicopter went down. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said insurgents shot down the helicopter around 11 p.m. Friday as it was starting an operation on a house where the militants were gathering in the Tangi Joyee region of the district of Saidabad in the eastern part of the province. Eight militants were killed in the fight, which continued after the helicopter fell, Mr. Mujahid said.

“The fresh reports from the site tells us that there are still Americans doing search operations for the bodies and pieces of the helicopter are on the ground,” he said.

Although the nationality of the NATO soldiers killed was not confirmed, Americans were known to be carrying out most of the operations in the area

The Guardian confirms that this was the single biggest loss of life suffered by US or NATO troops of the entire war, and the worse since an attack on another Chinook killed 16 U.S. soldiers back in June 2005. ABC News reports that up to 25 of the 31 Americans killed were Navy SEALs.

And, The Washington Post reports that there was a second incident involving a NATO helicopter mere hours after the attack:

The second incident involving another helicopter happened on Saturday in an area of Khost province, a restive region in the southeast of the country. Brockhoff said the helicopter made a precautionary landing and all on board had escaped unhurt. The helicopter suffered minor damages, he said, rejecting Taliban’s claim that the group had shot it down.

The two incidents are among the latest crashes involving NATO and U.S. aircraft in recent months in Afghanistan where a resurgent Taliban has been carrying out more deadly attacks. The number of crashes or “hard landing” of aircraft belonging to NATO forces have been significantly high in the past months.

Truly, a tragic and sad day.

Update: The Associated Press reports that most of the American troops killed were members of SEAL Team 6, the unit that carried out the raid that took out Osama bin Laden.



FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, National Security, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    We are shedding blood and treasure and accomplishing zip and never will. Save lives and reduce the debt – bring them home now. They don’t hate us because of our freedoms they hate us because we are killing them.

  2. Ron Beasley says:
  3. Jib says:

    Bad, bad day. My cousins son is a seal. I am not sure where he is and the odds are he was not on that copter but you never really know. I have not got any word yet. It is going to be a rough day for a lot of families.

  4. jan says:

    When a family has their own loved ones deployed it puts a whole new hue on a war, and how necessary or futile it really is.

  5. An Interested Party says:

    Many slammed Charlie Rangel when he pushed for a new draft, but the fact of the matter is that these wars would have ended long ago if huge swaths of young men were forced to fight them, rather than the small very select group of individuals who are…

  6. James Joyner says:

    @An Interested Party: These were, if the news reports are correct, elite Navy SEALs on a rescue mission. Even if we reinstitute a draft, we’re not going to draft SEALs. They’ll always be volunteers.

    Warriors volunteer for war, which carries a not insignificant risk of not getting out alive. But that’s why we owe it to them not to send them off to risk their life in vain.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    James, when I was growing up we had some neighbors who were ultra anti-Vietnam war. They had a son who graduated college in ’67-68. They begged him to go to Canada. He refused, said if his country called, he would serve. It did, and he did. He was in country 2 weeks before he came back with a bullet 1/2″ from his heart and an arm that would never do any thing more than hang there.

    I was 12 and my parents had only daughters of draft age at the time. It left an impression on them that no amount of #s ever could.

    Warriors volunteer for war, which carries a not insignificant risk of not getting out alive. But that’s why we owe it to them not to send them off to risk their life in vain.

    But it is so much easier to send them off to some god-forsaken place on this planet if they volunteered for it. “Well, they knew what they were getting into when they signed up.” Like it is their fault we invaded Iraq for no good reason, or Afghanistan (I will always maintain that was a mistake, I understand why, but even then I could see why not)


  8. Jay Tea says:

    Three months ago, the US got Bin Laden. Despite concerns from the Defense Department, the Obama administration released the team that got him, several narratives of how it all went down, and Joe Biden even identified the CO by name.

    Today, the Taliban scored their biggest victory in 10 years of war, and killed over 2 dozen men assigned to the unit that got Bin Laden.



  9. An Interested Party says:

    @James Joyner: I wasn’t referring to these casualties in particular, but more so to the fact of how long these wars have lasted, and the seemingly cavalier attitude of presidents who have involved us in military conflicts since the end of the draft…I suspect they wouldn’t be so quick to push for military action if we still had a draft…


    Oh my, bring forth the articles of impeachment…

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    The main reason I am in favor of not cutting but slashing the DOD budget is that if you have something it’s too easy to use it. There are many things we can no longer afford to do and one of those is to be the world’s policeman. The fact that nearly 50% of the world’s military spending is on the backs of the American people – that’s obscene.

  11. Yet another disillusioned pawn says:

    @James Joyner: In the very best of circumstances, the thanks of a grateful nation and a used only one time flag for the mantle is a paltry compensation for the loss of a spouse, parent, or child. It is the best we can do, but that fact only makes it more important that we think more thoroughly through the proposition before our next excursion “planting the seeds of democracy.”

  12. jan says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Three months ago, the US got Bin Laden. Despite concerns from the Defense Department, the Obama administration released the team that got him, several narratives of how it all went down, and Joe Biden even identified the CO by name.

    I remember there were military concerns about identifying who this elite group was by name. Supposedly, when Obama made his bows and rounds to congratulate the men personally, only the support team showed, not the seals themselves, as they were so angry at how the President had handled the press on their mission.

  13. medrar says:

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