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HIG claims it shot down ISAF helo in Kapisa



Afgh-air-assault.jpg

US Army paratroopers prepare to load into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during an air-assault mission to detain a known militant in the Bermel district of Paktika province, Afghanistan. The paratroopers are assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's Company B, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. US Army photo by Private First Class Andrya Hill.

ISAF lost a helicopter in the central Afghan province of Kapisa today. One pilot was killed and another wounded after a firefight broke out at the crash site. From ISAF's press release on the incident:

An International Security Assistance Force helicopter crashed in Alah Say district, Kapisa province, today.

As coalition rescue forces arrived at the crash site, they immediately came under enemy fire. Coalition forces returned fire with small arms and an air weapons team while working to evacuate the two crewmembers of the aircraft.

The two crewmembers were recovered by coalition forces, one died at the scene from injuries received in the crash.

Aircraft recovery operations and heavy fighting continue in the area.

The cause of the crash is unknown and is under investigation.

The Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, the radical ally of the Taliban that is run by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, claimed that its forces shot the helicopter down. according to Dawn. The Taliban hasn't commented on the helicopter crash on their website, Voice of Jihad, as the website is currently "under maintenance."

While it is too early to say what caused this crash, the likelihood is that HIG shot down the ISAF helo. Regardless of the cause of the crash, the Taliban and allied groups have shot down relatively few helicopters and fixed wing aircraft since the US invaded in October 2001. Here is the list of aviation incidents in Afghanistan since 2001. According to the list, only 10 aircraft (nine military and once civilian) have been shot down by the Taliban.

For more on the Taliban's attempts to acquire and deploy anti-aircraft systems, see Threat Matrix report, The Taliban acquisition of anti-aircraft platforms.



READER COMMENTS: "HIG claims it shot down ISAF helo in Kapisa"

Posted by Johno at April 24, 2011 4:57 AM ET:

The loss of this aircraft and one of it's crew brings the toll of aircraft lost to 80 odd by accident and 15 or so to hostile fire.

After 10 years of war the helicopter losses are less than a 100 - all causes.

Compare this to the 330 lost by the the Soviets during a similar time period ie. 1979 to 1988 and the 6,600 - yes that's 6,600 - lost in South Vietnam between 1963 & 1973.

As opposed to a lot of politically driven hot air this statistics reflect a factual certainty about who is supplying the enemy in Afghanistan.

Shooting down a helicopter by infantry is a tough task. No amount of determination, desire, planning etc. will make any difference unless you have thousands of heavy machine guns in theatre & tens of thousands of 12.7mm rounds for each weapon.

12.7mm ammo is very heavy for a guerilla army to transport. A thousand rounds weighs 130 kg - throw in the links and the can it comes in - & you're looking at nearly 300 pounds of ammo per thousand rounds. A Taliband/Wahabi will not carry much ammo and a pack animal can carry 100 - 150 rounds in the mountains & 200 on the flat. So 5 donkeys or 10 bearers (good luck finding them) can carry enough ammo to last your HMG 2 minutes on full cyclic.

The guns are already there, thousands of them left over from the Soviet invasion. Pakistan manufactures it's own ammo and has millions of rounds of stock purchased by the CIA during the Soviet occupation.

If Pakistan was supporting the enemy why the lowly 15 combat losses in 10 years. Deniablity? Nope they have/can buy Soviet era ammo by the millions. Better aircraft? Perhaps but I don't think a modern Chinook or a Blackhawk is 10 times tougher than a Hind nor 200 times tougher than a Huey. The mountains have shrunk? Not the last time I looked. The Pakistan Army likes to have its soldiers beheaded? Some people think so!

The amount of military ordnance crossing the frontier is minuscule. Hence the loss rate. It is a fraction of what the ISI allowed thru when they were being funded by the West and that was small enough.

The amounts crossing to the enemy from Pakistan is directly proportionate to the vast sums of Saudi money the Wahabis can throw at the black market. In much the same way narco dollars buy US guns and ammo and they are shipped illegally into Mexico.

We need to radically change the way we approach this problem and the last thing need is alienate the few allies we have despite their shortcomings - real or imagined.

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 24, 2011 9:43 AM ET:

Johno,

Just because the Taliban/HIG hasn't shot down as many aircraft as the muj did with the Soviets, it doesn't mean Pakistan/ISI isn't supporting the Taliban. Getting in weapons sophisticated enough to shoot down NATO aircraft makes for a traceable trail. The Pakistanis aren't that stupid. I think you'd have to ignore plenty of other evidence - that has come from troops on the ground, not from politicos - to come to the conclusion that Pakistan doesn't support the "good Taliban" - ie the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani groups (Bahadar, Haqqani, Nazir, etc.) and "good jihadis" such as LeT and JeM, that don't overtly threaten the Pakistani state. The Taliban openly operates in Pakistan, and have safe haven, and this couldn't happen without support from the state. I won't go into details on this here, I've published hundreds of reports outlining Pakistani support.

Posted by Johno at April 24, 2011 12:54 PM ET:

Bill,
"Getting in weapons sophisticated enough to shoot down NATO aircraft makes for a traceable trail."

Do you believe a Dskh 12.7mm is capable of downing an ISAF helicopter? I understand your point if you do not. Obviously 12.7mm ammo is not traceable but as it is not effective then the Pakistanis aren't bothering with it? They are using other more effective means to attack ISAF which are not traceable. Is that the jest of it?

I have not had the opportunity to discuss the tactics ISAF helicopter pilots adopt when flying into multiple HMG arcs in the Hindu Kush with the exception of two pilots who were very green so I don't think my impression of the ISAF approach has any substance.

I have seen at close-quarters the effect on Mi -24s & Mi-17s flown by very experienced Soviet pilots & I think Vietnam speaks for itself both from the MACV side and the NVA/Vietcong.

So I am genuinely intrigued by your observations.

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 24, 2011 10:43 PM ET:

Johno,

The Dskh of course is capable of shooting down helos, this is of course a more brute force/labor intensive method, as you nicely detailed. I should have said: "Getting in weapons sophisticated enough to easily shoot..." I of course am referring to MANPADS when I say "easily" (still an imperfect word but I hope you get my gist here).

My impression is the Taliban has put all that much effort in shooting down helos/fixed wing, and has put more energy in hitting our convoys on the ground. IEDs are a cheaper, more effective, less labor intensive, and less traceable way of hitting us where it hurts.

This is all conjecture of course. Regardless, the Pakistani military/ISI support of the Taliban, via safe havens in Pakistan, is well documented. The Taliban isn't in need of weaponry to beat us, they need time and space. And Pakistan gives them plenty of both.

Posted by Johno at April 25, 2011 6:42 AM ET:

I do not jest when I say I get your gist.
However I would contend the lack of real military support is forcing them into IED but that is, as you say, a matter of conjecture.

The whole MANPAD thing vis-a-vis ground- clutter & fighting at night is a can of technical worms which will bring in the sales dept. from Raytheon & the Rand Corp. masquerading as posters so I won't go there. (Got the T-shirt). Needless to say more four-legged donkeys and fewer two-legged ones is still my motto.

So your contention is that the combined armed force of ISAF in the ATO is being thwarted to a significant degree, by fertilizer, blast-caps and batteries.
If the newspapers can be believed an incredible amount of nitrate fertilizer was provided by USAID! (four legs good two legs bad, four...) So the Wahabi's only have to front up for the blast caps & the batteries. Good grief have you seen the Brent Crude price!

If that is the case (I hope your wrong) the enemy doesn't need anyone's help to any great degree. The anti-West sentiment which can sustain this level of arms can be found anywhere in the world - let alone the NWFP...Oklahoma for instance.

One thing which many people may not appreciate is the region either side of the Pak-Af border is a godforsaken place geographically speaking. At night it is like you are on the surface of the moon. Usually a days hard march either side before you reach some miserable shepherd's sanger. In some regions it is even a days hard journey by pickup to reach the same. You could make a thousand Oklahoma bombs & no one would ever know, no matter how hard they searched.

This is why the enemy can attack ISAF and disappear 'across the border'. You would contend the Pak Army should prevent this. Fair enough. When the enemy attack & kill Pak troops where is "back across the border" and who is policing the Afghan side?

The battlespace is virtually identical so we are in fact asking an impoverished nation to do what we cannot achieve on our own turf. Sure they make lousy allies but what about the French, Germans,Poles,Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans (ok not them they have plenty on their plate). Some of them have more money than we have. I don't think threatening to bomb them would induce any of them into being less lousy allies.

Like I keep saying we need to change the mindset. They walk into the battlespace & they walk out & they carry their armaments with them. Flying by them at 500 knots & bombing them is pointless. Coming in by chopper(where the terrain allows) means they are pre-warned & thus pre-armed. Even more so if we approach in an armoured vehicle.

The West does not possess the wherewithal to sustain large infantry losses so we need to apply our resources into technology for each infantryman. At the moment most 'high speed' kit is impossible to carry let alone jump from boulder to boulder after a Taliband who weighs 160 lbs with his kit on!

I don't think hounding Charlie Wilson's old buddies will make a damn bit of difference either. There are plenty more where they came from.

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 25, 2011 10:05 AM ET:

Johno,

You hav to drill more deeply on which Taliban kill Pak soldiers.

The "bad Taliban" - the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP), the Punjabi Taliban, AQ, etc. attack Pakistani forces. The "good Taliban" - Haqqanis, Nazir, Bahadar, etc. are supported by the Pakistani state because they don't attack the state (even if they shelter the bad Taliban, AQ, etc. thy are still good).

The Pakistani powers that be still believe the "bad Taliban" are more "wayward brothers" than enemies, and have said so multiple times in past ( a Corps commander called Baitullah Mehsud a "patriot" after Mumbai for instance).

I've tracked this activity for years and am thoroughly convinced. I honestly wish I was wrong about this, because I see no way the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be sorted out with Paks' help.

Posted by Johno at April 25, 2011 11:23 AM ET:

Bill
The fractious bonds amongst the various warring parties has always been thus. I doubt whether much trust is holding them together in a "good/bad" sense.
An outside view is very difficult to quantify. For 30 years Gulbadeen H & Jelaledeen H would have shot each other on sight. Their supporters very often did. Now we are told they are allies.
Ahmed Massoud was considered by most Muj as a Soviet stooge - one step above 'General' Doostrum. They both still are. Say that to any western journalist and he will think you a moron.

But of most importance is your hopes for Pakistani help. Forget it. I didn't realise you were labouring under this expectation.

There are many reasons for this some good most bad - for them and for us. It is planted very deeply in the psyche. It takes a long time to accept this as most of them would love to live in the US. It may have something to do with powerful military forces which have passed to and fro across the region for thousands of years. It is based on a mixture of fear and envy. Not much joy comes with those two.

The best you can hope for is a restriction to 7.62mm, RPG & IED material crossing into Af in 'reasonable' amounts. In other words the here and now is as good as it will ever be. If we attack the enemy with the occasional spook op it may just stay the same. But it will not improve.

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 25, 2011 11:29 AM ET:

Johno,

I hold no hope that Pakistan will change its behavior.

Posted by Talha at April 25, 2011 11:53 AM ET:

I guess Johno has forgotten that Mujahidin during Soveit-led invasion were far better-eqipped than they are today.... (recall how many stinger missiles they had!). Second, in 1980's, the militants were overtly backed by Pak Army--but now, things have changed.. Pakistan is too afraid to go against the US. The Pakistani state may be providing covert support to insurgents. And most important of all, the PakArmy wants the hardcore elements out of the way because the future Islamic state does pose a serious threat to secular establishment of Pakistan.

Posted by Johno at April 25, 2011 2:13 PM ET:

Bill,
As long as it stays like it is it shouldn't make any difference. Like I suggested the amounts crossing the frontier are minuscule. The Allies have to 'solve the riddle of the trenches' once again. Vietnam showed how much more powerful an 'insurgency' can get. And how to lose.

Pakistan could ramp up the misery ten fold overnight if they so wished.

We are following a similar path to the Soviets despite a much less militarily capable enemy. It will not work and the Paks know it. The frontier does not have to stop us in briefly pursuing the enemy who thinks the isolation of the border region provides safety. Just keep it short and sweet.

I have fired on Soviet MiG 23s south of Peshawar flying below the high tension power lines 50 miles inside the border and there was no big deal. It was meaningless as far as we were concerned.

This is for the long haul - god knows I wish it wasn't - I read name places in the news I thought had long been left to ghosts but we are "here because we're here " to use the chorus of the WW1 song & there is no alternative.


Posted by davidp at April 29, 2011 6:46 PM ET:

Vietnam certainly shows how to loose a war like this: Take away air support, fuel and artillery ammunition resupply from a partially trained army without indigenous air support. On the other hand South Vietnam fell, not to an insurgency but to a fully supported, largely conventional invasion, - lots of artillery, substantial armor, major resuppy roads through the neighbouring countries.

While the Taliban have the experienced, dedicated leadership, I can't see them getting the logistics to do anything like the North Vietnamese did, without explicit full Pakistani support, and someone funding the Pakistanis to do it.

On the other hand the U.S. economy and politics has worrying parallels to the early 70's and a massive cut back of support is a real possibility.