A U.S. Forces Chinook helicopter crashed on Saturday in central Maidan Wardak province, west of Kabul. All 38 on board were killed, thirty were U.S. military: the 5 flight crew of the Chinook, 22 Navy Seals and three US Air Force personnel. Seven Afghan army troops, a dog and his handler, and a civilian interpreter were also killed in the crash. The Seals who died were members of the Navy’s special forces SEAL Team 6 — the unit that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last May.
None of the personnel who took part in that raid were thought to be on the helicopter. The Taliban were quick to claim they had shot down the helicopter during a firefight. The helicopter, on a night-raid mission in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province, was most likely brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade, a coalition official said.
In Washington, a U.S. official said the helicopter was thought to have been shot down. The Pentagon has said the cause of the crash is being investigated. General John R. Allen, the commander of the international military mission in Afghanistan, said: “All of those killed in this operation were true heroes who had already given so much in the defense of freedom. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
This was the deadliest day for US military personnel in the 10-year Afghan war to date. The deaths come two weeks after the start of a gradual security handover from foreign forces to Afghan troops and police, and at a time of growing U.S. unease about the increasingly unpopular and costly war.