Earlier today, US special operations forces hunted down and killed the Taliban commander and the shooter who were responsible for last weekend’s downing of a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of 30 US soldiers, including SEALs, seven Afghan commandos, and an interpreter.
The Taliban commander, who was identified as Mullah Mohibullah, an “insurgent who fired the shot associated with the Aug. 6 downing of the CH-47 helicopter,” was killed along with several other fighters today in an airstrike in the Chak district in Wardak province, the International Security Assistance Force announced in a press release.
The hunter-killer team tracking Mohibullah had received “multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens” on his location, and found the Taliban unit in a wooded area of Chak after “an exhaustive manhunt.” The special operations team then called in an airstrike to kill the Taliban fighters. ISAF said Mohibullah and his fighters “were attempting to flee the country,” presumably to Pakistan, “in order to avoid capture.”
ISAF described Mohibullah as “a key facilitator in an insurgent attack cell led by Din Mohammad, a Taliban leader killed in a previous special operations mission.” Mohibullah led a 12-man cell in the Tangi Valley, “including potential suicide bombers.” The Tangi Valley is a known Taliban haven.
Mohibullah and his team were responsible for the largest loss of life of Coalition forces in a single incident since US forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Thirty US troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, three Air Force Special Operations Forces personnel, five Chinook crewmen, an interpreter, and seven Afghan special operations soldiers died when their helicopter was shot down. The SEALs were members of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly referred to as SEAL Team 6, the unit that carried out the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2.
ISAF said the SEAL team was in pursuit of fighters from Mohammad’s cell who “were fleeing an engagement in which six militants had already been killed.” The Chinook was downed as it took fire “from several insurgent locations on its approach.” ISAF also said that “it has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash.”
“We committed a force to contain that element from getting out, ” Gen. John Allen said today, according to Reuters. “And, of course, in the process of that, the aircraft was struck by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) and crashed.”
An anonymous Afghan official claimed that the Taliban “lured US forces into an elaborate trap to shoot down their helicopter,” AFP reported, but this has not been confirmed.
The Aug. 6 shootdown of the Chinook in Wardak was the second such incident in less than two weeks. On July 25, the Taliban shot down another Chinook with rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs, just one hundred yards outside of an Afghan Army base in the Pech Valley in Kunar province. No ISAF and Afghan troops were killed in the crash, however.
Within three days of the Aug. 6 shootdown in Wardak, the Taliban claimed to have shot down three other helicopters. On Aug 6, the Taliban said they shot down a helicopter in Khost, killing all of the crew members. On Aug. 7, the Taliban claimed to have shot down a helicopter in Kabul province. And on Aug. 8, the Taliban said they shot down another Chinook , this time in Paktia, killing 33 American troops.
ISAF noted that several helicopters made hard landings during that time period, but no casualties were reported. The Taliban often manufacture or inflate the casualties, and routinely claim they have shot down ISAF helicopters.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.