WASHINGTON (AP) — International forces killed the Taliban insurgents responsible for shooting down a U.S. helicopter and killing 38 U.S. and Afghan forces over the weekend, but they still are seeking the top insurgent leader they were going after in Saturday’s mission, the top American commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday.
In a separate statement Wednesday, the military said the Monday strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the rocket-propelled grenade at the helicopter. The military said intelligence gained on the ground provided a high degree of confidence that the insurgent who fired the grenade was the person killed. It did not provide further details.
Gen. Allen defended the decision to send in the Chinook loaded with special operations forces to pursue insurgents escaping from the weekend firefight with Army Rangers in a dangerous region of Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan.
“We’ve run more than a couple of thousand of these night operations over the last year, and this is the only occasion where this has occurred,” Gen. Allen said. “The fact that we lost this aircraft is not … a decision point as to whether we’ll use this aircraft in the future. It’s not uncommon at all to use this aircraft on our special missions.”
While officials believe the helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, Gen. Allen said the military’s investigation into the crash also will review whether small-arms fire or other causes contributed to the crash.
Questions remain about why the troops were called in to aid other U.S. combatants engaged in a firefight, what they knew about the situation on the ground, and what role the flight path or altitude may have played in the disastrous crash.
Gen. Allen and other officials would not discuss the details of the probe, but it no doubt will include a look at the insurgent threat and the instructions given to the special operations team that crowded into a big Chinook helicopter as it raced to assist other U.S. forces.
The investigation comes as the remains of the troops killed in the crash were returned Tuesday in an operation shrouded in secrecy by a Defense Department that has refused so far to release the names of the fallen and denied media coverage of the arrival at DoverAir Force Base in Delaware.
The investigation will review a number of basic crash questions, which will probably rule out such factors as the weather, terrain and mechanical issues, since military officials believe the helicopter was shot down. It also will look at the flight of the Chinook as it moved into the fighting zone. Chinooks are heavy-cargo helicopters that do not have the agility of smaller, more maneuverable aircraft.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it will release the names of the troops killed — after days of debate and delay.
The release had been in question because the dead were mostly covert special operations forces from the Navy and Air Force. Though some of their names were made public by loved ones, the Special Operations Command asked the Pentagon not to release them, arguing it was a security risk.View Entire Story
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