- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The U.S. military has not established a connection among the five helicopter crashes in Iraq over the past three weeks, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday.

“Clearly, each time we have an aircraft go down, we take a look at it, and given the proximity of these events happening together, we’ll have people looking at them not only as individual events but collectively, as to whether or not there is any correlation,” spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

Asked whether the crashes meant that insurgents were better armed, Mr. Whitman said: “I don’t think I can make any sort of conclusion like that at this point.”

On Wednesday, the military said seven crew members and passengers died when a Marine helicopter crashed in Anbar province, a Sunni Arab bastion west of Baghdad, earlier in the day. Officials are investigating what caused the crash.

Mr. Whitman said investigators have not yet indicated whether the cause was “mechanical, human [or] hostile.”

On Sunday, the military revealed that insurgents had shot down four U.S. helicopters since Jan. 20, killing a total of 20 troops and private security guards.

Mr. Whitman did not confirm U.S. press reports that a sixth helicopter, belonging to a private security firm, had crashed Jan. 31.

Anthony Cordesman, a military affairs scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the series of helicopter crashes did not seem to signal a pattern but was “a warning” about what the U.S. military could face in the coming months.

“The insurgents may have found a new, high-profile way to attack the U.S. at a time they are fighting a political and perceptual battle against the U.S.,” he said.

According to him, the recent helicopter losses must be viewed in perspective. An estimate by the Brookings Institution found that the U.S. had lost fewer than 60 helicopters since the war began in March 2003 although thousands of flights are made each month in Iraq.

“These losses also compare with some 5,000 helicopters lost in Vietnam, about two-fifths of which were combat losses,” he said.

He also said the insurgents do not need new weapons to bring down helicopters. They can use “virtually any automatic weapon, man-portable surface-to-air missiles and even RPGs [rocket-propelled grenade launchers].”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide