U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings Jr., a spokesman for ISAF, told CNSNews.com in an e-mail today that Afghan forces were in the U.S. helicopter that crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Aug. 6 because “the majority of our operations are combined coalition/Afghan missions.”
“In some cases, Afghans are in the lead,” added the spokesman. The Aug. 6 helicopter crash resulted in the death of 30 U.S. soldiers, one civilian interpreter, and seven Afghan commandos. The latter are considered an elite force because they are trained by coalition special operations forces. They are a separate entity from the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF).
There were 25 special operations soldiers, mostly Navy SEALs, among the U.S. soldiers who were killed in the crash. It was the deadliest incident for coalition forces in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led war began in October 2001.
The helicopter went down in Wardak province located in eastern Afghanistan during a mission that had targeted a Taliban leader.
Lt. Col. Cummings Jr. told CNSNews.com that it is standard procedure to send Afghan troops along with U.S. special operations units on missions such as the one in Wardak.
“Both the Afghan military and policy personnel have become efficient at executing numerous types of missions on their own as well as combined with coalition forces,” he said.
The ISAF spokesman indicated that it remains uncertain whether the helicopter was brought down by “hostile fire,” although the ISAF acknowledged on Aug. 8 that the aircraft was fired upon. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for bringing down the helicopter, but they are known for exaggerating their actions. The ISAF has launched an investigation into the cause of the crash.
A transcript of CNSNews.com’s e-mail exchange with the ISAF follows below:
CNSNews.com: “There have been reports attributed to an anonymous Afghan official that the helicopter went down as a result of a Taliban trap. Can you verify this allegation?”
ISAF: “I have seen a number of media stories stating this allegation. We have no initial information as of yet to validate that this was some kind of ambush or trap, but with that said, the helicopter incident is still under investigation for the cause of the crash.”
CNSNews.com: “Why were Afghan troops involved in this particular mission?”
ISAF: “The majority of our operations are combined Coalition/Afghan missions and in some cases the Afghans are in the lead.”
CNSNews.com: “Were those troops part of some kind of elite Afghan force?”
ISAF: “My understanding is that they were Afghan Commandos.”
CNSNews.com: “Is sending Afghan troops along with U.S. special ops units on missions
like the one on Saturday in Wardak a standard procedure?”
ISAF: “Yes, as mentioned earlier, the majority of our operations are combined Coalition/Afghan missions and in some cases the Afghans are in the lead. Both the Afghan military and policy personnel have become efficient at executing numerous types of missions on their own, as well as combined with coalition forces.”
CNSNews.com: “Was the helicopter that was shot down at its max as far as how many
passengers it is able to carry? Is it standard procedure to max out a helicopter's carrying capacity? Why were there so many soldiers on the helicopter?”
ISAF: “No, there were 38 U.S. and Afghan members on this aircraft. The CH-47 Chinook Helicopter can carry anywhere from 33-55 personnel depending on configuration, load and altitude.”
CNSNews.com: “To what extent was the helicopter involved able to sustain an RPG
ISAF: “All of our helicopters have the most state of the art defensive systems.”
CNSNews.com: “Is there any evidence of a special type of RPG used in the attack that
can deliver a heavier blow than regular RPGs? i.e., improvised rocket assisted mortar?”
ISAF: “The helicopter incident is still under investigation and we should be able to determine what type of munitions was used if it is found to have been downed by hostile fire. The initial security force on the ground observed several insurgents, armed with rocket propelled grenade launchers, and AK-47 assault rifles, moving through the area.< > <-->