Martin C. Evans

Dozens of Special Ops Killed in Afghanistan Crash

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Until now, the deadliest day for U.S. troops in Afghanistan was June 28, 2005, when a Long Island Navy Seal was killed with 18 comrades near the Pakistan border.

That changed Friday night, when Taliban insurgents shot down a helicopter west of Kabul, killing 30 U.S. troops – including 22 Navy Seals – along with seven Afghan commandos.

The grim incident brings into sharp focus the difficulty facing military leaders as they try to balance plans by the White House to reduce the size of U.S. forces there with the desire to avoid leaving Afghanistan an unstable danger to the troops who will remain until a planned final pullout in 2014.

The high death toll is likely to renew criticism from some circles that President Obama’s decision to speed the withdrawal of troops jeopardizes the lives of those still deployed in Afghanistan. One of the architects of the 2007 Iraq surge, retired Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane, warned in testimony before Congress last month that the troop draw down “has increased risk significantly and threatens overall mission success.”

But the incident has as a backdrop an increasing weariness amid the U.S. public with what by some accounting has been the longest war in U.S. history, one that is costing nearly $7 billion per month with no clear road to victory.

President Barack Obama issued a statement offering condolences to the families of the troops who were killed.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan,” Obama said today in a statement.

“Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families,” the president continued, “including all who have served in Afghanistan.

The slain troops were part of a mission to attack a Taliban compound in the Tangi valley, a region of apple and pomegranate trees running between Wardak and Logar provinces. The valley’s narrow roads overlooked by high cliffs make it easy for insurgents to ambush U.S. forces.

The area was said to have been pacified two years ago by soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division.

Before yesterday, the war’s deadliest incident was one in which a Patchogue Navy Seal, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, was slain along with two fellow Seals during a mountainside attack near the Pakistan border. A rescue helicopter bearing 16 special forces troops was shot down with no survivors.

Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush.

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