The U.S. Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, concluded that the grenade was the “primary cause” of the crash of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Wardak Province, according to a Defense Department news release.
The grenade hit “the aft rotor blade as the helicopter approached its combat landing zone,” according to the release.
The incident was the biggest loss of U.S. troops in a single engagement since the start of the war 10 years ago.
The ill-fated mission targeted Qari Tahir, a notorious Taliban leader in the Tangi Valley.
The initial assault force on Aug. 6 consisted of a U.S. Army Ranger platoon, an Afghan unit and a female cultural adviser. It was supported by two of the Chinook helicopters, made by Boeing Co., based in Chicago, two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, an AC-130 aerial gunship and a “team” of surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, according to an unclassified summary of the investigation that was released on the Central Command website.
After the SEAL team was called for relief, a “decision was made to load all personnel on one aircraft” because the commander “wanted to mass troops quickly, and to mitigate the increased risk to a second helicopter approaching the landing zone,” according to the document.
The inquiry concluded that the decision to load the force on one helicopter to minimize its exposure to ground fire and mass the troops “was tactically sound.”
This is one aspect of the unclassified report I strongly disagree with.
In my opinion U.S. commanders in Afghanistan risked a lot by sending 30 special operations soldiers in one helicopter.
One British SAS (Special Air Service) commander told me in August “that a raid he was on in Baghdad was canceled because their commander did not want to take the risk of putting dozens of highly trained operators in one aircraft. The Brit’s would not have never done that…” he said. “They would have never been so reckless with the lives of so many men in this particular operation because of their experience in the 1982 Falklands conflict, when a Sea King helicopter ditched, with the loss of 18 SAS men. In Iraq they switched to medium-sized Puma helicopters for precisely the same reason so the enemy wouldn’t have a chance to kill so many with one successful shoot down.” Which is exactly what happened here. In this case a Taliban fighter fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) caused the Aug. 6 helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed “30 U.S. special forces and military personnel, seven Afghan commandos and a civilian interpreter.”
The report concluded wrongly that the decision to mass troop in one helicopter was “tactically sound”.
Letters to the Pentagon suggesting they change this policy have been ignored.