- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Some in the special operations community are privately criticizing the wisdom of Saturday’s failed rescue mission in Afghanistan, saying commanders should have sent more than the one Chinook helicopter that was shot down, killing 30 American troops, including 23 elite Navy SEALs.

They also questioned whether the quickly assembled mission was necessary to rescue a band of Army Rangers reportedly under fire from Taliban militants.

“I squarely blame whoever planned and authorized the mission for the deaths,” said a Special Forces soldier who served in Afghanistan.

“It was simply uncalled for unless Rangers were being overrun and the ground situation required this much operational risk.”

Special operations sources also told The Washington Times that it would have been better to send two helicopters instead of one to reduce risks.

“The SEALs do seem to like stuffing a lot of valuable guys in one [helicopter],” said a second special operations officer who also served in Afghanistan.

“There may have been an operational reason not to spread them out over two, [but] I just don’t know what that would be.”

They also questioned the type of aircraft dispatched for the mission. The NATO command in Kabul identified the downed helicopter as a Boeing CH-47 Chinook, not the modified version, the MH-47.

The MH-47 Chinook is configured for nighttime missions by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The Army Times said the Chinook was piloted by a regular Army crew, not aviators from the specially trained 160th.

“This was a regular Army crew and bird, so the crew would have less experience, training and countermeasures compared to a 160th,” the second special operations source told The Times.

The NATO command said the CH-47 was felled by a rocket-propelled grenade as it approached a landing spot to disengage the SEALs, some of whom belonged to the special counterterrorism squad known as SEAL Team 6, which killed Osama bin Laden.

A retired officer who served with SEALs in Afghanistan said the best practice is to land the Chinook away from the point of battle, but choice spots are not always available in rugged terrain.

“I would be hard-pressed to challenge the commanders’ decision on the ground,” the ex-officer said. “My guess is that the Taliban got a lucky shot off. It happens in war. Unfortunately, when you have 30 guys in one thin-skinned [helicopter] the repercussions can be deadly.”

The U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., declined to respond to the mission’s critics.

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