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Friday, August 12, 2011

Seattle Times: Airstrike kills Taliban who killed SEALs on helicopter

I'm glad that the US Military was able to get 'em. I knew they would. But not even their deaths can change the fact that we've lost such brave and amazing young heroes. This is just so tragic.

From the Seattle Times:
WASHINGTON — 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 are still seeking the top insurgent leader they were going after in Saturday's mission, the top American commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday.

Marine Corps Gen. John Allen said at a Pentagon news conference that an F-16 airstrike Monday killed fewer than 10 insurgents involved in the attack on the Chinook helicopter.

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 details.

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," Allen said.

While officials believe the helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, Allen said the military's investigation into the crash will also 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.

According to officials, the dead included 17 SEALs, five Navy special-operations troops who support the SEALs, three Air Force airmen, a five-member Army aircrew and a military dog, along with seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter.

Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, appointed Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt to lead the investigation. Colt is deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said Wednesday that they would release the names of the troops killed.

The release had been in question because most of the dead were covert special-operations forces from the Navy and Air Force. Though some of their names had been made public by loved ones, the Special Operations Command asked the Pentagon not to release them, arguing it was a security risk.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta considered the issue and decided to release the names. Lapan said the names should be made public within 24 hours.