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2011 U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook shootdown
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Bagram, Afghanistan, similar to the one that was shot down.
Attack summary
Date 6 August 2011
Summary Rocket-propelled grenade
Passengers 33
Crew 5[1][2]
Fatalities 38 plus one U.S. military working dog[3][4]
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter
Aircraft name Extortion 17
Operator U.S. military[5][1][2]
Registration 89-00175[6]

On 6 August 2011, a U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook military helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, was shot down while transporting a quick reaction force attempting to reinforce an engaged unit of Army Rangers in Wardak province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan.[7][8] The resulting crash killed all 38 people on board—25 American special operations personnel, five United States Army National Guard and Army Reserve crewmen, seven Afghan commandos, and one Afghan interpreter—as well as a U.S. military working dog.[9][10][11][12] It is considered the worst loss of U.S Military life in the Afghanistan campaign, surpassing Operation Red Wings in 2005.

Deaths[edit | edit source]

The deaths included:[13]

The 30 American deaths represent the greatest loss of U.S. military lives in a single incident in the decade-long war in Afghanistan that began in 2001.[3][16][17]

Blow to U.S. Special Operations Forces[edit | edit source]

Of the Navy SEALs that were killed 15 were members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as SEAL Team Six. This unit is also known for having carried out the Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted in the killing of Osama Bin Laden; however, none of the SEALs killed participated in the operation.[10][12][16][19] The other two Navy SEALs killed in the helicopter shootdown were from a West Coast-based SEAL unit. The five other Navy personnel were NSW support personnel. In addition to the NSW losses, three AFSOC operators died in the crash, one Combat Controller and two Pararescuemen, all members of the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. Their deaths are the greatest single loss of life ever suffered by the U.S. Special Operations community in the 24-year history of the U.S. Special Operations Command.[14][20]

A source from the Navy's special operations community described the reaction as, "Shock and disbelief. There's no precedent for this. It's the worst day in our history by a mile."[14][21] The previous highest U.S. death toll from a single incident in the war also came from a rocket attack on a Chinook helicopter carrying Navy SEALs during Operation Red Wings on 28 June 2005. In that incident sixteen Navy SEALs and Army special operations troops were killed and three more SEALs were killed in fighting on the ground.[10][12]

Initial accounts[edit | edit source]

The U.S. military helicopter carrying special operations forces to a night-raid in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province, was most likely brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade, according to military officials.[12][16]

General Abdul Qayum, the police chief of Wardak, said the military helicopter was shot down around 1 am Saturday after a U.S. night assault on a house in the village of Jaw-e-Mekh Zareen in the Tangi Valley that had lasted at least two hours.[12] Local witnesses reported that at least two helicopters had taken part in the U.S. special forces attack on the compound, killing eight Afghan insurgents, but that just after the helicopter had taken off again it was fired upon from a separate position. Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said: "The US chopper that crashed last night was shot down by the Taliban as it was taking off. A rocket fired by the insurgents hit it and completely destroyed it."[10][16]

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, confirmed that eight of the movement's fighters had been killed in the assault on the compound. He said: "They wanted to attack our Mujahideen who were in a house, but our Mujahideen resisted and destroyed a helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade."[10]

Later accounts[edit | edit source]

Subsequent reports stated that the U.S. military helicopter had been delivering reinforcements to U.S. Army Rangers, another special operations unit, when their night raid on a compound to kill or capture a senior Taliban leader went awry.[3][22][23][24] During the battle US forces observed a small group of Taliban trying to flee the scene. The group probably contained the commander and a few of his bodyguards while the remaining Taliban fighters offered resistance in an effort to buy the group enough time to escape. In order to prevent this US forces called in for support.[25]

Other reports alleged that the Taliban had laid an elaborate trap for U.S. special operations forces, luring them in with false information. A senior Afghan government official, speaking anonymously, said that Taliban commander Qari Tahir had fed U.S. forces false information about a meeting of insurgent leaders and fighters waited for the helicopter from both sides of a steep valley: "The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take. That's the only route, so they took position on either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets and other modern weapons. It was brought down by multiple shots."[26]

In October 2011, US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that an investigation carried out following the shoot down concluded "that all operational decisions, linked to the incident, were deemed tactically sound". The article states that the helicopter crashed after a RPG round impacted the aft rotor assembly.[27]

Subsequent events[edit | edit source]

On 10 August 2011, the U.S. military claimed that the insurgent who fired the rocket-propelled grenade had been killed only two days afterward in a F-16 airstrike, saying only that intelligence gained on the ground provided "a high degree of confidence" that the person was among those killed in the airstrike from two days earlier, but providing no other details.[28]

During the same Pentagon news conference in which he announced that the F-16 airstrike had taken out "less than 10" of the insurgents involved, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander in Afghanistan John R. Allen said the military investigation into the helicopter downing would also review whether small arms fire or other causes might have contributed to the downing.[28]

Many of the men interviewed for the book Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm perished in the crash.[29]

In 2013 Jason Chaffetz said he would hold an investigation of the United States House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security into the matter.[30]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kavanaugh, Lee Hill (8 August 2011). "Friends remember three area soldiers killed in Afghan crash". http://www.kansascity.com/2011/08/07/3063205/friends-remember-three-area-soldiers.html. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Chinook Crewmembers Line of Duty Deaths". ARMY AIR CREWS. http://www.armyaircrews.com/chinook.html. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Jon Boone in Kabul (7 August 2011). "Worst US loss of life in Afghan war as helicopter crash kills 38". The Guardian. UK. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/06/us-biggest-loss-afghan-war-helicopter-crash-38. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  4. David Batty and agencies (6 August 2011). "US military helicopter crash in Afghanistan kills 38". The Guardian. UK. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/06/us-helicopter-crash-afghanistan-kills-38. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  5. By NBC's Courtney Kube and Mark Murray. "Taliban shoots down U.S. helicopter, killing dozens of U.S. soldiers". Firstread.msnbc.msn.com. http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/08/06/7281148-taliban-shoots-down-us-helicopter-killing-dozens-of-us-soldiers. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  6. "ASN Wikibase Occurrence #137858". Aviation-safety.net. http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=137858. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  7. Dion Nissenbaum, Julian Barnes and Habib Totakhil (8 August 2011). "Elite Force Died in Bid to Save Comrades". Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904480904576494672078478148.html?mod=googlenews_wsj. 
  8. Carlo Munoz. "Would the Taliban Have Hit an Osprey?". AOL Defense. http://defense.aol.com/2011/08/10/would-the-taliban-have-hit-an-osprey. 
  9. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). "DOD Identifies Service Members Killed In CH-47 Crash". Department of Defense. http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14728. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Farmer, Ben (7 August 2011). "Taliban shot that brought down American Chinook killing 30 US commandos was 'lucky', officials believe". The Daily Telegraph. UK. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8687193/Taliban-shot-that-brought-down-American-Chinook-killing-30-US-commandos-was-lucky-officials-believe.html. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  11. Sarwar, Nadeem. "Taliban shoot down US helicopter in Afghanistan; 38 killed". News.bostonherald.com. http://news.bostonherald.com/news/international/asia_pacific/view/20110806afghan_president_31_americans_killed_in_copter_crash/srvc=home&position=0. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Rivera, Ray; Rubin, Alissa J.; Shanker, Thom (6 August 2011). "Copter Downed by Taliban Fire; Elite U.S. Unit Among Dead". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/world/asia/07afghanistan.html?_r=2&hp. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "DOD Identifies Service Members Killed In CH-47 Crash". Department of Defense. 11 August 2011. http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14728. Retrieved 17 August 2011.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "DOD List" defined multiple times with different content
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Naylor, Sean D. (7 August 2011). "Tragedy devastates special warfare community". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2011-08-07-naval-special-warfare-reaction-afghanistan_n.htm. 
  15. Cole, Kevin (8 August 2011). "Lincoln native on downed copter". http://www.omaha.com/article/20110808/NEWS01/708089904/0. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 "US special forces Afghan helicopter downed by Taliban". BBC News. 7 August 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14430735. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  17. King, Laura (6 August 2011). "Chopper crash kills 31 U.S. troops, 7 Afghans". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fgw-afghan-chopper-20110807,0,7157351.story. Retrieved August 2011. 
  18. "DOD Identifies Service Members Killed In CH-47 Crash". U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). August 11, 2011. http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14728. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  19. Faiez, Rahim. "News from The Associated Press". Hosted.ap.org. Archived from the original on 12 October 2011. http://web.archive.org/web/20111012222531/http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_AFGHANISTAN?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-08-06-06-27-19. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  20. "Impact on special forces of Navy Seals helicopter loss". BBC. 3 August 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14449165. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  21. "Afghan chopper crash a major blow to US commandos". Google. 11 September 2001. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. http://web.archive.org/web/20130216063136/http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hrV8Mr0Et1Ywb7llqG0A-UQSyq3w?docId=CNG.e74b31644d4973fb1793545d10f44234.1d1. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  22. Jon Boone in Kabul (8 August 2011). "US helicopter shot down in Afghanistan was sent in after night raid went awry". The Guardian. UK. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/08/us-helicopter-afghanistan-night-raid. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  23. "Special forces helicopter shot down in Afghanistan was on a mission to rescue fellow Navy SEALs | Mail Online". Daily Mail. UK. 10 August 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2023123/Special-forces-helicopter-shot-Afghanistan-mission-rescue-fellow-Navy-SEALs.html. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  24. "US military probes deadly Afghan helicopter crash". News.yahoo.com. 20 April 2011. http://news.yahoo.com/us-military-probes-deadly-afghan-helicopter-crash-062300759.html. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  25. "What happened on night of deadly Afghanistan helicopter crash?". Reuters. 10 August 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/10/us-afghanistan-crash-idUSTRE7792ET20110810. 
  26. "Taliban laid trap for Chinook: official". GlobalPost. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/afghanistan-war/110808/taliban-chinook-special-forces-afghanistan-trap-ambush. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  27. http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/wardak_executive_summary.pdf
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Military killed Taliban who downed US helicopter". News.yahoo.com. 20 April 2011. http://news.yahoo.com/military-killed-taliban-downed-us-helicopter-132740655.html. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  29. "The Navy SEALs’ Dying Words". http://nation.time.com/2012/08/06/the-navy-seals-dying-words. 
  30. "Congress to probe lethal SEAL crash."

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