Thirty American special forces and eight Afghan soldiers were killed when a Chinook helicopter went down on Saturday in Afghanistan, making it the deadliest day for the U.S. since the war began 10 years ago. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter, although that claim has not yet been verified. Twenty-two of those killed were reportedly personnel from Navy Seal Team 6, the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden, but not the same soldiers that took part in the mission.
2011 has seen record-high levels of violence in Afghanistan and a spike in casualties – at least 383 foreign troops have been killed this year, nearly 50 of them in the first week of August. Saturday’s deaths came barely two weeks after Coalition forces began handing security responsibility over to the Afghans with the goal of all foreign combat troops leaving the country by the end of 2014.
A Chinook helicopter, Afghanistan
Even with the pull-out, special operations troops are expected to stay to help conduct counterterrorism missions and provide advisory support. The number that will remain has not yet been decided by the Afghan government, but Washington is considering from 5,000 to 20,000. There are currently 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
According to one official, that the Taliban were able to take down the helicopter was more a matter of luck than anything else. “We are not seeing it as a game changer. This was not a new tactic and it wasn’t a new weapon,” he said. Nevertheless, it is a sober reminder of what our troops face every day in the war-torn country.