Worst US Casualties In Afghanistan War Caused By RPG Fire
August 6–As a Chinook helicopter was extracting a sizable special forces unit from a hostile area at three in the morning, an RPG rocket struck the lumbering transport and brought it down. Debris was later found scattered on opposite banks of a river. All those aboard, including the pilots, were killed. It happened on a Saturday and when the news broke, the official casualty list was staggering:
19 members of Seal Team Six
7 Afghan special forces
5 US Army
3 USAF controllers
3 “support troops”
Since then, the Chinook Down incident in Wardak province, Tanji Valley–known to be infested with Taliban–is a reminder to the world that the war is far from over. It’s also a major blow to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and significant loss of life for the Navy Seal community.
The circumstances that led to the fatal ambush involved a Ranger unit that called in reinforcements. It’s unclear how long the fighting had dragged but it’s safe to assume the firefight began on Friday night and extended to the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, when the Seals arrived. By the time their extraction was underway Taliban forces were still active in the surrounding area and targeted the departing Chinook.
A week later top NATO Commander Gen. John Allen (he’s the replacement for Petraeus) released a statement confirming a retaliatory airstrike against those responsible.
What’s still rather suspicious about the incident is the RPG-7 that downed the Chinook. The ubiquitous launcher is widely used by terrorist and insurgent forces around the world and has a reputation for ruggedness. However, it’s not a MANPADS, which is better suited for downing aircraft, even slow twin rotor giants such as the Chinook. Also, the Chinook was hit at 3am when it was still dark–so a lucky Taliban fighter scored an RPG hit at a moving aircraft without the benefit of night vision? Then again, there’s a greater buzz about an Osama-related conspiracy theory.
Seasoned war reporter David Axe wrote an interesting piece on the weapon that could have taken out the Chinook.
Having mentioned Osama Bin Laden and Seal Team Six in the same article, here’s a New Yorker feature on the controversial Abbotabad raid.