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Gen. Colt told the Ranger commander: “I’m just going to give you the feedback. The AH guys, they really thought that their primary task was continuing to monitor these guys. … That’s where their focus was. And as far as the amount of attention that they paid to the [helicopter landing zone] and the [infiltration] route, it was a secondary task to them.”

The Ranger task force operations chief answered: “It might have just been their gut instinct … but I don’t think they were directed to do that.”

As the SEALs approached the landing site, Taliban in the tower of a two-story compound about 200 yards away fired rocket-propelled grenades. One hit the rotary blade.

Gen. Colt’s executive summary does not explicitly say the Apaches were misused.

“The investigation disclosed that the special-operations task force commander did not reallocate the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to ensure surveillance coverage for the ongoing [Ranger-led assault force] and the inbound immediate reaction force (IRF) mission,” he wrote.

Gen. Colt also said that flights over the battle space for more than three hours put the Taliban on alert.

“The shootdown was not the result of a baited ambush, but rather the result of the enemy being at a heightened state of alert due to 3½ hours of ongoing coalition air operations concentrated over the northwestern portion of the Tangi Valley,” the general wrote. He suggested that commanders change tactics.

Another issue raised by the mission’s critics is why the task force was using conventional Chinooks and crews instead of special-operations Chinooks, with which commandos typically train.

The Ranger officer told Gen. Colt that he preferred to travel with Army Special Operations Aviation (ARSOA), which includes the MH-47, a specially configured Chinook.

He said his “comfort level is low because they don’t fly like ARSOA. They don’t plan like ARSOA. They don’t land like ARSOA. They will either, you know, kind of, do a runway landing. Or if it’s a different crew that trains different areas, they will do the pinnacle landing.”

The investigation discovered that ARSOA helicopters were pulled out of the area last year and moved to the south. “I still don’t really understand the reasons behind that,” an investigator said.

Gen. Colt concluded that the mission’s Air National Guard crew was fully qualified.

After reading Gen. Colt’s executive summary, a longtime special-operations officer still questioned the need for the mission.

The source said immediate-reaction forces are typically used if things are going very badly. In this case, the Rangers were not in danger of being defeated, had secured the objective compound and taken detainees, as the Apaches hunted the remaining Taliban.

“The report does not address the ongoing use of the CH-47 that was never meant for hot-LZs and the combat roles we have used it in for the last decade,” the officer said. “It does not address why a CH-47 was used in lieu of a MH-47. It might have had the same outcome, but the MH-47s are somewhat better.

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