A US military helicopter transporting military personnel in an area of western Iraq previously under control of the control of the Islamic State crashed yesterday. Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the US-led coalition organized to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, announced today that “all personnel aboard were killed in the crash.”
CJTF-OIR said there is no evidence that the helicopter was downed by enemy forces and it is currently investigating the incident.
CJTF-OIR noted that an accompanying Coalition helicopter “reported the crash” and a combined Coalition and Iraqi quick reaction force immediately launched a search and rescue operation.
The helicopter that crashed was a HH-60 Pave Hawk, a variant of the Black Hawk that is operated by the US Air Force to conduct search and rescue operations. However the HH-60 Pave Hawk is also used by US Air Force Special Tactics Officers, whose missions include ground combat operations and directing air support missions. It is unclear if US Army special operations forces were accompanying US Air Force personnel.
The crash is a reminder that while the Islamic State has lost control of a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria over the past year, it is by no means defeated. Like its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State has shifted its focus from overtly controlling territory to conducting insurgency operations.
The helicopter crashed near Al Qaim, a town along Euphrates River along the Iraqi border that was recently wrested from the Islamic State’s control. The Islamic State still controls towns along the Euphrates on the Syrian side of the border.