By Phil Ittner
A NATO helicopter has gone down in Eastern Afghanistan. The international coalition confirms the crash but did not give a cause. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says 31 U.S. Special Forces troops and 7 Afghan troops died in the crash. An investigation has begun.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was grieved by the deaths of the American and Afghan soldiers when the helicopter went down late Friday in Wardak province in Eastern Afghanistan. Karzai expressed his condolences to U.S. President Barack Obama and to the families of the victims.
Officials say this is the highest death toll from a single incident for international forces in the nearly 10-year-old Afghan war.
The Chinook helicopter was operating in Wardak province, a hotbed of insurgent activity.
Reading from a prepared statement, a spokesman for the International Security Forces, or ISAF, Lt. Nick Papadakis, said there were reports that enemy fighters were active in the region at the time.
“An international security force assistance helicopter crashed in Eastern Afghanistan today and recovery operations are underway,” he said. “ISAF is still in the process of assessing the circumstances to determine the facts of the incident. Reporting indicates there was enemy activity was in the area.”
Eyewitnesses in the area say that there were several helicopters involved in the action and that the Chinook came down after trying to lift off from a house where insurgents had gathered.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the incident. In a release the group says it used a rocket to bring the helicopter down.
But the Regional Governor of Wardak, Mohammad Halem Faidai, says an investigation will determine the cause.
“I think we should wait for the result of our investigation team,” he said. “The investigation team is in the scene… are studying the type of the incident, the causes of the incident and the number of the casualties. Once that is complete we will share the information.”
This summer’s fighting season is turning out to be one of the bloodiest of the war, as all sides in the conflict try to gain an upper hand before the withdrawal of NATO troops begins.
A recent United Nations study indicated that security incidents are up by 50 percent when compared to the same period last year.
According to the Independent Monitoring Organization, iCasualties.org, with this incident the number of U.S. fatalities in the War in Afghanistan now stands at 1,644.