Taliban, Islamic State both claim to have shot down helicopter in central Afghanistan

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State claim to have shot down a helicopter in the central Afghan province of Ghor today. The Afghan military instead claims the helicopter made an emergency landing due to technical issues.

The Taliban, on its official website, Voice of Jihad, claimed it downed “a hireling helicopter while bombing the area.” The helicopter “was shot by Dshk [a heavy machine gun] and downed before landing in the said area, leaving all puppets killed or hurt inside.”

“It is worth mentioning that this is the second enemy helicopter being downed in Ghor province over the past one and half month,” the Taliban statement continued.

The Islamic State, on its Amaq News Agency, first claimed it shot down “a US helicopter gunship,” but later issued a correction that noted it took down a helicopter operated by “Afghan forces.”

Afghan officials in Ghor claimed the helicopter landed at a local airport after catching fire. “The helicopter made emergency landing due to technical issues and there were no casualties reported in the incident,” Khaama Press reported.

In the past, the Afghan military has attempted to cover up Taliban attacks on its helicopters. In March 2016, Afghan officials claimed a helicopter in Kunar province made a hard landing, while the Taliban claimed it destroyed it as it landed at a remote base. The Taliban later issued video footage of the helicopter exploding in a massive IED attack as it landed. [See LWJ report, Taliban destroys Afghan army helicopter in IED attack at military base.]

The Taliban and the Islamic State have issued competing claims for attacks in Afghanistan in the past. The Taliban is known to operate in Ghor province. The Islamic State was blamed for rounding up and killing 30 civilians in Ghor province at the end of October, however officials later said that a local Taliban commander was responsible. No group claimed credit for the October massacre in Ghor. The Islamic State has not shied away from claiming credit for mass executions, which increases the probability that the slaughter in Ghor was indeed carried out by the Taliban.

In the past, the Taliban has shot down several US helicopters using RPGs, or rocket-propelled grenades. The most newsworthy¬†strike¬†took place in Aug. 2011 in the Tangi Valley of Wardak province. Taliban RPGs struck a US Army Chinook that was involved in a raid to capture a senior Taliban commander. That attack resulted in the deaths of 38 US and Afghan troops, including 17 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed al Qaeda’s founder and first emir, Osama bin Laden.

Also, on Dec. 17, 2013, a US Blackhawk helicopter went down in Zabul province, killing six US soldiers. The Taliban claimed it shot down the Blackhawk. But the US military discounted the Taliban’s claim and said in a press release that “initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.” Three weeks later, the US military told the families of the soldiers killed that “enemy action caused the crash and loss of life.”

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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