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.