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Copter crash in Afghanistan reflects peril of US Special Forces

Bagram (Afghanistan) , Mon, 08 Aug 2011 ANI

Bagram (Afghanistan), Aug.8 (ANI): The mission that left 30 American soldiers, including 22 Navy Seals, dead Saturday morning in eastern Afghanistan was just one of dozens of operations carried out by U.S. Special Operations forces every week in Afghanistan.


The only difference was the disastrous ending.


While SEAL Team 6 gained worldwide fame with the raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden, Saturday's ill-fated operation reflected the reality of a unit that regularly targets insurgents whose names and faces are almost completely unknown outside military and intelligence circles, the Washington Post reports.


In this case, the mission was aimed at suspects in a series of attacks on foreign convoys along a highway south of Kabul, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


Some reports Sunday suggested that SEAL Team 6, which suffered substantial losses when a Chinook helicopter was shot down by an apparent insurgent's rocket-propelled grenade, joined the mission after another unit asked for backup.


U.S. Special Operations forces have been a critical component of the war strategy in Afghanistan, executing operations in remote and volatile locations that are often inaccessible to ground troops.


In Wardak Province's Tangi Valley, where the crash occurred, U.S. troops had recently withdrawn from the area's sole combat outpost.


Such missions are expected to become increasingly important as the United States begins withdrawing troops in the coming months and years, leaving NATO without the manpower to conduct the traditional counterinsurgency operations at the heart of the troop surge over the past 18 months.


Saturday's mission was a night raid, which is usually a joint operation between NATO and Afghan forces, often informed by lengthy intelligence-gathering efforts.


Afghanistan is in the process of developing its own commandos, and the raids are seen as key to building that nascent force's capacity.


Officially, NATO would not confirm whether the crash was due to insurgent fire, saying an investigation has been launched.


The Special Operations missions are seen as critical not only by the Americans and other foreign contingents here, but also by Afghans, who lack an Air Force of their own and often find themselves dependent on NATO air support.


However, it appears unlikely that Saturday's crash will threaten U.S. or Afghan confidence in Western air superiority. A senior defense department official told the New Yorker magazine recently that in the past couple of years, Special Operations forces conducted almost 2,000-targeted raids.


The vast majority of those did not result in casualties among U.S. or Afghan forces.


Senior U.S. military officials said the loss of the SEALs would have little impact on the U.S. military's ability to conduct strikes on senior and mid-level Taliban officials, which they said have become increasingly effective and lethal over the past year. (ANI)


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