Saturday, August 6, 2011

38 Killed In Afghan Helicopter Crash, Including at least 20 US Navy SEALS

A US military helicopter carrying American and Afghan soldiers was reportedly shot down by Taliban fire on Saturday, with all 38 on board killed. The helicopter was on a nighttime mission in the Wardak province west of Kabul when it was said to have been struck by a RPG and crashed.

Among those killed in the crash were members of the Navy's SEAL Team 6, although officials stated none of the men who participated on the May raid of Osama Bin Laden's Pakistani compound were aboard the chopper.

One current and one former U.S. official said that the dead included 25 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six, the unit that carried out the raid in Pakistan in May that killed bin Laden. They were being flown by a crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because families are still being notified.

A total number of 38 people died in the crash, killing 7 Afghans and one interpreter.

The death toll would surpass the worst single day loss of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 -- the June 28, 2005 downing of a military helicopter in eastern Kunar province. In that incident, 16 Navy SEALs and Army special operations troops were killed when their craft was shot down while on a mission to rescue four SEALs under attack by the Taliban. Three of the SEALs being rescued were also killed and the fourth wounded. It was the highest one-day death toll for the Navy Special Warfare personnel since World War II.

NATO confirmed the overnight crash took place and that there "was enemy activity in the area." But it said it was still investigating the cause and conducting a recovery operation at the site. It did not release details or casualty figures.

"We are in the process of accessing the facts," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman.

With its steep mountain ranges, providing shelter for militants armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, eastern Afghanistan is hazardous terrain for military aircraft. Large, slow-moving air transport carriers like the CH-47 Chinook are particularly vulnerable, often forced to ease their way through sheer valleys where insurgents can achieve more level lines of fire from mountainsides.
Thinking back to the Bin Laden raid, not even a full day afterwards, I had expressed concerns that trade secrets would be given away in the euphoria and afterglow of the operation's success- and I know I can't be the only one. I'm hoping this isn't the case, but in this epoch of wikileaks and state secrets frequently showing up in the front page of the New York Times, one can't be too sure.

I really and truly am at a loss for words over the loss the Navy Special Warfare family and the US Military in general has just suffered.

And So It Goes in Shreveport is reporting that at least two of the casualties identified on Saturday are from the northwestern Louisiana city.

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