PULI ALAM, AFGHANISTAN:
The Taliban lured US forces into an elaborate trap to shoot down their helicopter, killing 30 American troops in the deadliest such incident of the war, an Afghan official said on Monday.
A total of 38 people – 30 US troops, many of them special forces, seven Afghan commandos and an interpreter – were killed when their Chinook came down during an anti-Taliban operation late Friday.
The crash marked the biggest single loss of life for American and Nato forces since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban in late 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks.
The senior government official told AFP on the condition of anonymity that a Taliban commander, Qari Tahir, lured the US forces to the scene by tipping them off that a Taliban meeting was taking place.
He also said four Pakistanis helped Tahir carry out the strike.
“Now it’s confirmed that the helicopter was shot down and it was a trap that was set by a Taliban commander,” said the official, citing intelligence gathered from the area.
“The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take,” he added. “That’s the only route, so they took position on either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets and other modern weapons. It was brought down by multiple shots.”
The official, who was not authorised to discuss the issue, also said President Hamid Karzai’s government ‘thinks’ the attack was retaliation for the killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban themselves did not make such an assertion on claiming responsibility for the attack, which took place in the Taliban-infested Sayd Abad district of Wardak province, just southwest of Kabul.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon sought to dispel concerns about a Taliban resurgence on Monday.
US military officials have repeatedly played down those incidents as a Taliban attempt to project the appearance of strength after a series of battlefield defeats that saw their former strongholds taken over by Nato forces.
“This one single incident does not represent any kind of watershed or trend,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said.
“We still have the Taliban on the run, we’ve reversed the momentum that they had. But they are still going to inflict casualties, that’s what they do.”
US media says the dead included members of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the secretive unit behind the raid that killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad in May.
US administration sources interviewed by AFP said the casualties did not include anyone who took part in the Bin Laden raid.
Meanwhile, in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, another helicopter made a ‘hard landing’ in Paktia province, although no one was injured, Isaf said. “Initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the incident,” it added in a statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.