The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that six Coalition soldiers have been killed in “an aircraft crash” today in southern Afghanistan. Below is ISAF’s full statement on the crash:
Six International Security Assistance Force service members died following an aircraft crash in southern Afghanistan today.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.
It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.
The Taliban released a much more detailed statement that claims credit for downing the aircraft, which they said was a helicopter. The full statement from the Taliban’s official website, Voice of Jihad:
Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate have shot down the helicopter of foreign troops in Shahjoi district today, according to officials reporting from southern Zabul province.
The attack took place at around 03:00 pm local time today as the helicopter was flying over Ibraheem Khelo area at a low altitude, causing the chopper to violently plummet onto the ground in a ball of fire which killed all 8 invaders and crew onboard.
Witnesses say that several enemy helicopters and airplanes arrived at the scene while other invaders cordoned off the area from the public.
The Taliban’s claim cannot be confirmed at this time. The group routinely claims the downing of aircraft, even when the causes of crashes have been determined to be mechanical or other problems.
However, the Taliban have shot down ISAF helos in the past. The most significant shoot down took place in August 2011 in the Tangi Valley in Wardak province. The Taliban struck a US Army Chinook that was involved in a raid to capture a senior Taliban commander with RPGs; the attack resulted in the deaths of 38 US and Afghan troops, including 17 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team 6.
Regardless of whether the Taliban shot down the ISAF aircraft or it crashed, the US and ISAF will be relying more and more on air assets to ferry troops between bases as well as conduct supply, MEDIVAC, and other vital missions as Western forces are drawn down. Assuming that the Bilateral Security Agreement between the US and the Afghan governments is signed, and the US keeps 10,000 troops or less in country, the challenging task of responding to helicopter crashes and shoot downs in remote areas of Afghanistan will become even more difficult and dangerous.