Seven U.S. soldiers as well as four Afghan troops and a civilian interpreter were killed after their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province early on Thursday, according the American-led military command.
Afghan officials said the helicopter crashed in the Chinarto area of Shah Wali Kot around 10:00 a.m. on Thursday. All on board the aircraft were killed in the crash, they added. Although they suggested that the chopper might have been downed by enemy fire, U.S. officials said there were no indications that it was shot down.
Earlier in the day, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had reported the incident in a statement posted on its website. It said the crash "resulted in the deaths of four International Security Assistance Force service-members, three United States Forces-Afghanistan service members, three members of the Afghan National Security Forces, and one Afghan civilian interpreter."
Incidentally, the United States Forces-Afghanistan is a command separate from the main NATO force and it includes many Special Operations forces. Notably, American officials later refused to specify the type of unit to which the deceased U.S. soldiers had been assigned.
NATO helicopter crashes are relatively common in Afghanistan, but are rarely due to enemy fire. But in August 2011, thirty American soldiers and six Afghans were killed after Taliban insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter in eastern Afghanistan.
While 12 Turkish soldiers were killed after their helicopter crashed in Kabul in March, another chopper crash had left six U.S. service-members dead in Helmand province in January. Also, two U.S. pilots died in July after their helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan.
It is not yet clear whether Thursday's crash was caused by mechanical problems or by enemy fire. ISAF has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the crash. Nevertheless, Taliban has claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter.
Also on Thursday, another ISAF soldier was killed in a roadside IED (improvised explosive device) attack in the south of the war-torn nation. The ISAF, however, did not disclose the identity or nationality of the deceased in accordance with its policy of not disclosing details until the home country of the victims does so.
Notably, roadside bombings using IEDs are fast becoming the hallmark of Taliban strategy against NATO forces, as it avoids direct confrontation with the foreign troops while increasing casualties.
With the death of eight foreign soldiers on Thursday, it is now estimated that some 288 NATO personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of this year, mostly in roadside bomb attacks using IEDs
Currently, there are over 130,000 foreign troops from more than 42 countries under the joint command of the NATO and the United States in Afghanistan to contain a resurgent Taliban in the war-torn country.
The U.S. and other allied nations involved in the Afghan mission are currently making serious efforts to get the Afghan security forces ready and capable of handling the country's security before the planned withdrawal of coalition troops by the end of 2014. However, there are wide concerns about the ability of Afghan security forces to counter Taliban insurgency without the same level of foreign military assistance and presence.
by RTT Staff Writer
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