A SAD DAY FOR SEAL TEAM SIX: Taliban Kills 31 US Special Forces

Taliban say they downed a NATO helicopter in eastern Afghanistan killing at least 31 US and seven Afghan soldiers

In the deadliest single combat incident of the decade-long war, America’s longest, the Taliban say they downed a NATO helicopter in eastern Afghanistan killing at least 31 US and seven Afghan soldiers. A statement from the Afghan president’s office would later confirm the same.

The official statement said a NATO Chinook helicopter had crashed in Wardak province, west of the capital Kabul, and identified the Americans as special forces troops from the famed US navy SEAL Team Six that killed Osama bin Laden.

The troops from SEAL Team Six were flown by a crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, according to one current and one former US official. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because families are still being notified.

One source said the team was thought to include 22 SEALs, three air force air controllers, seven Afghan army troops, a dog and his handler, and a civilian interpreter, plus the helicopter crew.

The Taliban quickly claimed to have shot down the helicopter during a firefight. They also said eight of their fighters were killed in the fighting.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan would only say they were currently assessing what had happened.

Aircraft crashes are not uncommon in Afghanistan. The local terrain and challenging security necessitates air travel for most coalition forces transporting troops and equipment. There have been at least 17 coalition and Afghan aircraft crashes in Afghanistan this year alone. This latest incident produced the largest fatality of coalition forces since June 2005 when 16 US troops were killed when their helicopter crashed in eastern Kunar province. As in this incident, that helicopter apparently was also hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The news could not come at a worse for the Obama administration. President Obama recently announced that the Afghan army and police are ready to begin taking full charge of the country’s security, justifying NATO’s start of withdrawing its forces this year.

Pardon my skepticism, but I am certain I have seen this movie before. A year or two from now, Kabul will look very much like Hanoi.