Taliban claims to shoot down Afghan military helicopter

The Taliban claimed it shot down an Afghan military helicopter in the western province of Farah yesterday. Afghan officials denied the helicopter was shot – and instead claimed it crashed due to a mechanical failure. Regardless, the Afghan military was unable to secure the crash site and recover the five soldiers on-board for at least 10 hours after the helicopter went down.

Afghan officials confirmed that the helicopter crashed at about 9 p.m. local time on Sept. 14 in the district of Khaki Safid in Farah, according to TOLONews. A spokesman for the governor of Farah province said that the helicopter “crashed due to a technical issue, not due to Taliban fire,” Reuters reported.

The Taliban issued a video of its soldiers walking around the crash site, and claimed the helicopter “was shot by Mujahideen resulting in the chopper catching fire before plunging onto [sic] the ground” at 8 p.m. on Sept. 14. The video showed the wreckage of the helicopter and the bodies of five Afghan soldiers who were in it. The Taliban named three officers and two sergeants, and identified on of the officers as “Special Operations Commander Lieutenant General Toryali Farahi.”

Without footage of the helicopter being shot down and crashing, it is impossible to verify the Taliban’s claim. However, in the past, the Afghan military has denied its helicopters were shot down, only to be proven wrong.

Perhaps more disturbing than the possibility that the Taliban shot down the helicopter is that the fact that the Afghan military was either unable or unwilling to secure the crash site and recover the bodies of its soldiers at least 10 hours after the helicopter went down.

The Afghan government said the helicopter went down at 9 p.m. on Sept. 14, and the Taliban was recording video of the crash site and the bodies of the pilots and passengers in daylight on Sept. 15. In the video, Taliban fighters casually walked around the crash site and clearly looted any weapons and other gear that could be salvaged.

FDD’s Long War Journal assesses Khaki Safid as being under Taliban control, and the Afghan military’s inability to secure the crash site for at least 10 hours after its helicopter went down supports that assessment. The district center fell to the Taliban in June 2015. In the summer of 2017, the US military destroyed a Taliban “explosive depot” during an airstrike in the district.

Over the past year, the Taliban has succeeded in destabilizing Farah province. Of Farah’s 11 districts, three are controlled by the Taliban and six more are contested. The Taliban assaulted Farah City, the provincial capital, in May and briefly held large areas of the city.

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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7 Comments

  • Paddy Singh says:

    For the sake of the continuous loss of military and civilian lives it would be far more merciful to let the Taliban return to govern the country, rather than the inefficient puppets installed by the Yanks. Even the Afghan army is basically a collection of souls gathered for the little money they earn

    • Baz says:

      You’re absolutely right. It is time for the US and LWJ to start thinking of normalizing relations with a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban are basically the Muslim version of the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews in terms of how they organize their conservative-patriarchal society, the roles of women, and their puritanical religious lifestyle full of chanting scripture all day long and no leisure and entertainment at all other than a few arranged marriage wedding celebrations. These Haredi Jews are accepted as a normal mainstream sect of Judaism, they are allowed to have their own insular ghetto neighborhoods in London, New York and throughout Israel where they live their puritanical lifetstyles similar to the Taliban and don’t integrate with the wider liberal society. If governments and societies can tolerate all that from ultra-orthodox Jews within their own major cities and capitals, then why can’t they tolerate ultra-orthodox Muslims living similarly in faraway Afghanistan? The Taliban have promised to prevent international terrorism from Afghan soil, and that public promise should be the foundational basis for future bilateral relations. I envision bilateral relations between a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and western countries including the US, based on a similar model of how the west had good relations with the ultra-orthodox pre-Salman Saudi Arabia, in which the Afghans can maintain their ultra-orthodox culture in exchange for their cooperation to stop terrorism, and lucrative energy and natural resource extraction contracts. The model of how the west had good relations for many decades with the ultra-orthodox Saudi Arabia, can be replicated again in Afghanistan.

      • Murad Badshah says:

        Well Baz, in international politics and wars there is no such thing as moral and/or rational basis. If you are a mighty power who is unchallengeable, you can do whatever you want. You are a global policeman who can meddle wherever you want. You are the sole ‘exporter’ of democracy. You become a Mafia don on international level. You can invade a nation, occupy a country or kill people with out any excuse. What you say, you do or you see right, becomes rules and laws.
        So if Haredi Jews are allowed to live according to their beliefs, Saudi is an ally of West (though all the alleged hijackers of the so-called 9/11 were Saudis), and North Korean government is allowed to rule the country oppressively, that doesn’t matter. And by the above logic you can invade poor Afghanistan (even though there was not a single Afghan involved anywhere in the so-called 9/11) and can ruin a prosperous country like Iraq – no role in so-called 9/11, no WMD.
        But when you are punched and beaten then get the hell out of that place. That’s what happened with US in Vietnam, with Russia in Afghanistan and now with US in Afghanistan.
        As Taliban are the obvious victors of this war, they can’t be forced or coerced to the terms you described above, and if they are, that agreement/terms will be no more than dustbin shit because they won’t have any fear of invasion again. This is what happened in Vietnam after signing the Paris Peace Accord. Once US ran way from Vietnam, Paris Peace Accord was in dustbin, and with in two years Saigon was Ho Chi Minh City.
        The only party in this war to dictate and impose their terms is Taliban, and until now they have an impressive record of being persistent to their condition for talks – US should get out of their homeland.
        And one thing other Baz, once Taliban win, flames of their victory will start a new and more blazing fire in Kashmir as Kashmiri will get more fighting spirit after seeing ‘defeat’ of a superpower, and Taliban will obviously help them sooner or later.

  • Verneoz says:

    Helicopters with no armed escort is asking for trouble, and is a symptom that the Afghan Army is far from being competent.

  • C says:

    They have a fell to Mechanical Failure it seems.
    Huh? Imagine that.

    • Murad Badshah says:

      Well C, more than 90% of the fallen choppers are due to ‘mechanical error’ – a technical term for hit-by-Taliban.
      Love the way Kabul hides the truth and tries to make a fool of people.

  • irebukeu says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how they have a Magic 8 ball for helicopter crashes and always it has three results
    1 Mechanical failure
    2 Try again
    3 Mechanical failure

    I can’t think of anything scarier than thinking that your equipment will fail when you need it most. Oh, wait I can… Having a government that provided the equipment you depend on for your life tell you that it absolutely will fail, did fail and will fail again.
    Morale killer!!! The poor Afghans.

    Remember, if you’re working with clowns, you are most definitely part of a circus.

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