(Alex Brandon / Associated…)
A Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan in August that killed 38 U.S. and Afghan troops, including 17 Navy Seals, was caused by rocket-propelled grenade fire from Taliban fighters, not by any tactical mistakes by the special operations task force commanding the operation, a U.S military investigation concluded.
As the CH-47 helicopter was descending to a landing zone in Wardak province, it was struck by an RPG, which sheared off a rear rotor blade and caused the craft to plummet 150 feet into a dry creek bed, where it exploded in a large fireball and killed everyone aboard, Brig Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, who conducted the investigation, found.
The crash in the pre-dawn hours Aug. 6 was the single largest casualty incident in the decade-old Afghanistan war, and took an especially heavy toll on Navy SEALs, the close-knit elite unit that only months before had carried out the successful raid to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Colt dismissed initial speculation that the helicopter might have been lured into a trap, but he did note that the Taliban knew coalition forces and aircraft were in the area. "The shoot down was not the result of a baited ambush but rather the result of the enemy being at a heighted state of alert due to 3 1/2 hours of ongoing coalition air operations," he said.
Even so, the investigation cleared the U.S. special operation task force that was conducting the operation of wrongdoing, noting that the tactics "were consistent with previous U.S. special operation missions" and that "the strike forces selected to execute the mission were appropriate."