Special operations forces kill Taliban leader, shooter behind downing of Chinook

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.

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  • Stu says:

    I was thinking this morning about how the Taliban are touting the Chinook tragedy as a “great victory” for jihad, then read this story. I only pray that the R.O.E. drapery be pulled off of our forces and these rats be exterminated. Thanks to our brave military men for turning the tables on the enemy … this time. And pencil pushers at the Pentagon, get out of the way and let our fighting men do their duty.

  • YZ says:

    Bet Predators were all over the sky. Pay back is a bitch!

  • jayc says:

    “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” -None shall provoke/injure me with impunity.
    Bravo Zulu to my shipmates who perished in the crash, and a special BZ to the ones that avenged.

  • Jts says:

    Good job!

  • g says:


  • Neonmeat says:

    Just goes to show the price the Insurgents pay for Inflicting casualties on the ISAF forces.
    This tragedy was the most service men to die in one incident in Afghanistan during the whole war. Whereas ISAF just the other day knocked of a group of 70 Insurgents then about 100 more a few days or so after.
    For every one ISAF life they take they must lose around ten of their own men, no wonder they have to make up casualty figures or no one would want to join them.

  • Nic says:

    CNN said ” A precision airstrike killed Mullah Mohibullah — a Taliban leader — and the insurgent who fired what’s believed to be the rocket-propelled grenade that brought down the helicopter, according to Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. ” Sorry folks, I just do not believe that in a country like Afghanistan where spewing deceit is as normal as breathing that the intel could be so precise as to actually identify the trigger man.

  • Soccer says:

    neonmeat, that’s a good point. Maybe they lie and exaggerate the casualty figures in their “operational reports” so brainwashed western jihadis reading those will think that fighting in Afghanistan is a walk in the park?

  • Mr T says:

    Yeah, I found it a little strange that they could say one of the 10 men was the “shooter”. Who told them that? One of the 10 men? What, were they bragging about it to the locals and the locals turned them in? Something just seems a little off here.
    More than likely, everyone knew these 10 men that were the Taliban unit in the area. The 10 were probably the cause of a lot of trouble there. Roadside bombs, attacks on police, supply trucks, and coalition forces, intimidation of local people, and just general death and misery which is what the Taliban is all about.
    But why didn’t the locals tell us where they were before? Why did they wait until they committed a major killing before turning them in? And how could 10 men tie down a Ranger force that needed 30 men to come in and rescue them?

  • andrew says:

    Mr. T,
    The story was updated by the military stating that this QRF was sent out to look for squirters. The Rangers were never pinned down.
    I too find it a little odd that they were able to pinpoint the exact shooter, although this isn’t entirely impossible, as there are many eyes in the sky that could have tracked the individuals for days.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @MrT: But why didn’t the locals tell us where they were before? Why did they wait until they committed a major killing before turning them in?
    I can only imagine that our rapid response “investigators” arrived with a severe seriousness of purpose that created the primal inducement for the locals to drop dime. Immediately.
    As to your second question … these commando insertions are a nightly mission in that AO. My feeling is that some Tali got lucky.

  • The shooter was probably an instant celebrity in local Taliban circles. Word would have traveled fast down the mountain that one insurgent in particular had just killed more American soldiers in one shot than at any point in either war. Get some good quick intel from locals, combined with surveillance assets, radio crosschatter…I can absolutely see how they could have tracked him down so quickly.

  • Charu says:

    Congratulations! But it all seems too pat. Besides, closing the barn after the horses have escaped is of limited value. The key sentence is that “Mohibullah and his fighters “were attempting to flee the country,” presumably to Pakistan, “in order to avoid capture.””
    As long as the Taliban have safe haven in Pakistan, the war can never be won. Since Pakistan is clearly the problem, it should be dealt with directly or, better still, indirectly. Like choking its finances, limiting travel by its elites, targeting its supporters and remittances from abroad, and supporting the secession of the non-Punjabi regions; in particular the elimination of the Durand line and the re-unification of Pashtunistan in exchange for the Pashtuns laying down their arms.

  • Michel Kleistra says:

    As soon as they kill one another one pops-up.
    They never going to win if they don’t tackle the corruption in the goverment. Look at AW Karza, he harrased other tribes so much that they had no other choice then to join the Taliban. This is a backward country outside of the big cities. Analfabatism is very high, 72% cannot read or write. People lack glasses to see, so some taliban cannot aim right! Problem is also; there is no patriotism only tribe allegiance. How you going to cement a country like that.
    Which foreign company want to invest in Afghanistan.
    None!! So how they going grow GDP wise? I think a solution can be an own Pashtunistan. if they have an own state they will root out the Taliban and other fractions.

  • Nic says:

    @ Charu: ” Like choking its finances, ” Everyone can participate in this beginning today.
    SOURCE: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pk.html
    ” Textiles account for most of Pakistan’s export earnings, but Pakistan’s failure to expand a viable export base for other manufactures has left the country vulnerable to shifts in world demand. ” Boycott Pakistani products. Start with textiles. All LWJ readers: check the manufacturer’s label for country of origin when purchasing a textile. If it says: Made in Pakistan or Fabrication de Pakistan, Produit de Pakistan, then leave the product on the shelf. (my French is really bad).

  • gitsum says:

    Paybacks are a bitch! Git sum.

  • jfgh says:

    Looks like Mohammad and Abdul won’t be joining the Taliban War Bond tour in the Persian Gulf via Pakistan after all. A pity.
    I’d bet these jacklegs were on the radio crowing about their lucky shot, never believing that the infidels could get on their trail so quickly. Guess again.
    Nevertheless, every black turbaned Taliban goat pilot in Pashtunistan isn’t worth the lives of one of our fallen.

  • sports says:

    I can only imagine the # of hollow body parts flying around…glad to see there was some justice done to them.

  • Civy says:

    I’m a little surprise that anyone thinks we couldn’t ID the shooter. Black Ops helos must have IR cameras. Even if the chopper is shot down, the telemetry is likely real-time up to satellites and ditto for certain types of night scopes.
    You can actually do some really interesting stuff if every scope, or at least some of them, are transmitting sight pics in real time – like using 3D computer imaging software to be able to precisely pinpoint the location of anything in sight. Pretty great for remote weapons delivery.
    While generally such a tit-for-tat exchange isn’t worth the extra effort required, in this case, after 2 shoot downs, it eliminates a threat and sends a very targeted message.
    I should also point out that these “salt-lick” ops, as they were called in Iraq, can just as easily be used by US forces to kill those setting the trap.
    Finally, I was especially pleased that the final blow was struck by an F-16. No point wasting a Predator when they’re still on Afghan soil, and the F-16 has a lot more payload.
    I’m still waiting for the day we dial up the ISI while standing on top of a big pile of dead Taliban bodies INSIDE Waziristan and tell them if they so much as move a muscle they’re going to get a dozen B1s up their butts. They need us a lot more than we need them. Just ask the Chinese.

  • Bruce says:

    Great job. This story made my day!. However, don’t understad why it takes a solider to die inorder to go find, kill or capture the Taliban and their commanders.

  • Observer says:

    AFP may be right that it was a trap. A day or two before the downing it was reported on BBC Radio that SEAL Team 6 conducts 15 – 20 raids a night/day, the Taliban was thereafter in a position to know ‘where the shoe has been pinching them…’ . A US reporter who met them also contributed in the interview. Just a possibility.
    A counter-measure is yet to be found, and the US Armed Forces confirmation of the strike back, is an additional confirmation that an RPG can do the job. Laser. rotors, flares, cant prevent a repeat, but definitely there are hybrid solutions out there though not in the USA

  • Ray R says:

    Keep the boots off the ground and let the B’s start buzzing – B52’s, B1’s.
    The second any resistance is encountered have the Jdams, fuel/air and predators have their way with them. The only reason to have any special forces on the ground is to wash the targets with lasers- period.
    Bombs are cheaper than lives. They should also mine the border with Pakistan like they did with the Koreas.

  • Soccer says:

    Mining the border would be a tremendously difficult, mundane and expensive task. The massive valleys, peaks, rock beds, mountains, ridge lines and rivers that make up the border with Pakistan would provide a lot of problems when it comes to mining the border – especially since mining works best when you have flat land to plant the mines on. The border is anything BUT flat land.
    Also, a lot of civilians move back and forth between that border everyday. They would most likely die as a result of mining whatever terrain on the border we could mine.

  • Mr. Nobody says:

    You want to mine one of the most heavily mined countries in the world?

  • RayR says:

    The Koreas had relatives on both sides and the free flow of people was halted until world peace breaks out whenever that will come. Same was true for the people of Berlin and East Germany with their manned gun towersfor 25 years.
    That is just the price you pay to keep the Taliban out and contain them in Western Pakistan.
    As somene who has seen the complete destruction of Cities after WWII with first the Luftwaffe and then “Bombs away LaMay” and “Bomber Harris” I have seen total war. Germany’s will to fight was not broken, it basically ran out of soldiers. Accordingly, You have to be more ruthless than your enemy.
    I saw a Taliban on a NBC? news show a couple of years ago who stated that even if America pulled out completely they would come for us again in the US homeland like they did on 9/11. So these guys are not going away.

  • Civy says:

    The reports of the helicopter’s demise makes it unlikely in my mind that an RPG was used. AQ used a Russian Kornet anti-tank missile to down a C130 on approach to Balad AFB in Iraq a few years ago. That seems more in keeping with blowing the aircraft apart while still in the sky than an RPG. The explosive warhead in an RPG isn’t big enough to do that.

  • Civy says:

    The use of a Kornet missile would certainly make the shooter identifiable. Counter-measures would be to kill the command crew during flight, smoke, reflective foil chaffe, or my personal favorite, napalm and CBU the surrounding terrain while using a “bait” helo.
    A couple of Apaches and a Warthog would be nice too, but nape and snake could be delivered by a BONE from 50,000ft, so they’d never know what hit them. The area could be precision surveyed in advance, and perhaps, laced with GPS beacons creating a “GPS carpet” to insure accuracy.
    Anyone want to fly a “bait” mission? Anyone?

  • RayR says:

    Last thoughts on keeping AQ out of Afghanistan.
    You can not rid Germany of Nazis and leave them in Austrian and not expect a constant re-infection accross the Bavarian/Salzburg border. Same in Afghanistan/Western Pakistan.
    After getting their butts kicked 3 times in Afghanistan, the British split half of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and the rest in then Western India ( which became Pakistan in 1948). This was their attempt at controlling the Graveyard of Empires – Afghanistan.They did this at Versailles when they changed the borders of Europe and the Middle East. Many problems still come from these artificial borders in the Middle East today.
    Pakistan is not thrilled about this region since they kill their soldiers also and they are different people ethnically from the Pakistanis,
    This is why you need a permanent separation of the two regions otherwise all your blood and treasure will be in vain.

  • Charu says:

    Afghanistan is not the graveyard of empires. They may be scrappy fighters but they have been repeatedly conquered from the outside over the centuries. Except for the Macedonians and later the Persians, few felt it worthwhile to stay on. Even the British, who never let a business opportunity slide, found little to exploit in the region. The part of Pashtunistan in Western India was the legacy of the Sikh empire whom the Brits overthrew.

  • nomiolonga says:

    They tell you and you believe them. What a tragedy you are facing at the hands of your own people. If Pakistan is the real problem and US is powerful, why not to end the problem once for all. Why waiting in agony ? Just Do It !
    I think its high time now, Americans must realize that they can not control Afghan problem the way they have been trying to do do it for the last 10 years. And what ever happens in Afghanistan, its time for the collation of willing idiots to leave Afghanistan.
    Real problem which Americans are facing is, disregard for the Afghan people. Americans are not ready to accept that they have to settle the Afghan issue as per the aspirations of Afghans not according to what their think tanks want ! If you do not agree with me ! Wait for the coming disaster in 2012, when there will be an un announced major draw down of US forces in Afghanistan.

  • Zeissa says:

    My my my, so many brave men advocating invasion of Pakistan but afraid of a few million mines. 😉
    The cost is there… it is a cheap and effective solution to cripple the Taliban logistics… except in PR terms, but the US needs to get over that.

  • Zeissa says:

    nomiolonga: You don’t seem too far gone so I’ll take the time to tell this to you in a very simple way…
    The Americans are there not because they want to help Afghanistan, they’re there because Afghanistan protected terrorists who attacked them. That’s simple cause and effect. If you can’t understand such basic international policy then I recommend you read propaganda and avoid sites that state facts.

  • Bozo says:

    As long as the border to Pakistan is not sealed off, the war is unwinnable.

  • Charu says:

    And now the reports indicate that Pakistan gave the Chinese a close look (and samples of the stealth skin) of the special-ops helicopter that crashed during the Bin Laden operation. Brings to mind that there were Chinese technicians in the Pakistani naval base where the P3 Orions were destroyed. This is sheer insanity on our part!

  • nomiolonga says:

    Zeissa : That is what I am trying to tell ! If this is the only reason that US is in Afghanistan then they must negotiate on one thing with Taliban or Afghans. That one thing is this that Afghans or Taliban must guarantee that no International terrorist would use Afghan soil to attack any country in the world in future.
    But insisting on having bases in Afghanistan and trying to make people accept your desired form of Govt and governance is not the solution.
    At the moment it seems that Americans are not ready to compromise on their high headed policies and Taliban have pledged their generations to fight off Americans. This is no Solution to this problem which is effecting world peace.
    If you do not agree then keep on reading Western propaganda sites claiming US success in Afghanistan.

  • Mike W says:

    Afghanistan would have been won had we not ventured into the Iraq debacle.


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