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.
The US military had a tough day in Afghanistan, with 11 soldiers and three civilians killed and three helicopters lost. In the largest incident, a CH-47 Chinook crashed as it was departing a firefight in Baghlan province (this very likely was a Chinook as there were 14 Afghan troops, 11 US troops, and 1 US civilian injured in the crash). The Taliban claimed it shot down the Chinook, but the US military said “The cause is not believed to be from enemy action.”
Here is the initial report of the Chinook crash (the follow-up report provided the casualties). The three civilians killed may have been Drug Enforcement Agency personnel, given the description of the operation, which targeted drug operations:
In another unrelated incident, a joint, international security force searched a suspected compound believed to harbour insurgents conducting activities related to narcotics trafficking in western Afghanistan. During the operation, insurgent forces engaged the joint force and more than a dozen enemy fighters were killed in the ensuing fire fight.
As the joint force was departing the area, one helicopter went down due to unconfirmed reasons. Military casualties are reported and a recovery operation is underway.
In the second incident, two US helos “were involved in what was believed to be a mid-air collision in southern Afghanistan,” causing the deaths of four US soldiers and wounding two more. “It is confirmed that hostile fire was not involved,” the US military said.
No matter what the cause of the first crash — mechanical problems, pilot error, or Taliban shootdown — the number of helicopter and fixed wing aircraft crashes caused by the Taliban is remarkably low given that Coalition forces have been in country for eight years. The mujahedeen were able, with US help, to decimate Soviet aviation during the Afghan occupation from 1979-1989.
Here is the list of Coalition aircraft that have crashed since late 2001. Only a small percentage were due to enemy fire.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.