A Chinook helicopter was attacked in Afghanistan in the Sayd Abad district of the Wardak province killing 31 US forces, 25 of them being Navy Elite SEALs. The SEALs were part of Team Six, the unit that infiltrated and killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan several months ago.
According to media reports and senior officials of President Barrack Obama's administration, the Taliban claimed responsibility in shooting down the Chinook military helicopter as it was taking off. The attack is currently being claimed as the largest single attack on US forces in over 10 years.
"It's a big loss for the SEALs...The numbers are high," said an official. "It is believed that about two dozen Special Operations Forces, including some from other services, were on board the aircraft, in addition to the Army crew flying the craft."
In a statement from President Karzai's office, it was reported that the Chinook helicopter was shot down at night as it was returning from a mission. The mission was a launched raid on house where the Taliban were meeting. U.S. and Afghan troops killed 8 insurgents in the attack. As the US troops were preparing to depart, the Taliban used rocket grenades to take down the helicopter during takeoff. NATO confirmed that there were enemy activities in the area and an overnight crash was involved. Recovery operations are under way for further investigation.
"We are in the process of accessing the facts," said Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman.
The region is known to hold a strong Taliban presence and be a dangerous area for international forces. The mountainous region offers shelter for Taliban militants and difficult terrain for opposing aircrafts to navigate through. The Chinook helicopter may have been a vulnerable target getting caught in its steep valleys and line of grenade fire.
U.S. officials commented on the attack but kept certain information anonymous as the situation is still under investigation.
"Coalition forces responded with small arms fire and as the incident continued, an air strike was employed against the insurgent position," said a U.S. official.
Since the War on Terror began in 2001, the recent strike is being considered as the worst single attack on a U.S. led coalition accounting for a large number of loss life for the NAVY Seals. Previous attacks on U.S. troops over the years included high casualties.
In 2008, the year accounted for significant losses for U.S. troops where in May a suicide bomber killed 6 U.S. soldiers riding through Tarmiya on a motorcycle. A month later, another suicide bomber killed 20 people, 3 being U.S. Marines in an attack at a town in Baghdad. In July, 9 American soldiers and 15 NATO troops died after Taliban attacked a U.S. base in the Kunar Province in Pakistan. And in 2005, a helicopter was shot down in Kunar where 16 Navy SEALs lost their lives in a rescue mission to save 4 other fellow SEALs.
President Obama expressed his condolences to the tragic event and addressed a statement to the families of the 31 U.S. troops who lost their lives in the crash.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan. Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan.
We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied. We also mourn the Afghans who died alongside our troops in pursuit of a more peaceful and hopeful future for their country.
At this difficult hour, all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security," said President Obama.
NATO and U.S. Troops are already in the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The handing over of security control and combat forces are to be completed by the end of 2014.