ISAF Airstrike Kills Insurgents Who Caused Helicopter Crash

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 2011 — Coali­tion forces used a pre­ci­sion airstrike to kill Tal­iban insur­gents involved in the Aug. 6 down­ing of the heli­copter car­ry­ing 30 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers and eight Afghans, the com­man­der of U.S. and coali­tion forces in Afghanistan said today.

In a brief­ing from his head­quar­ters in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen told Pen­ta­gon reporters the action was a con­tin­u­a­tion of the orig­i­nal mis­sion to dis­man­tle the lead­er­ship of an ene­my net­work in War­dak province’s Tan­gi Val­ley.

“This does not ease our loss,” Allen said. “But we must and we will con­tin­ue to relent­less­ly pur­sue the ene­my.”

Near mid­night on Aug. 8, the gen­er­al said, coali­tion forces called in a pre­ci­sion airstrike with F‑16s over the Chak dis­trict of War­dak province. Accord­ing to details Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force offi­cials released today, the strike killed Tal­iban leader Mul­lah Mohibul­lah and the insur­gent who fired the shot — which ISAF assessed to be a rock­et-pro­pelled grenade, Allen said — asso­ci­at­ed with the Aug. 6 heli­copter crash.

Mohibul­lah was a key facil­i­ta­tor in an insur­gent attack cell led by Din Moham­mad, a Tal­iban leader killed in a pre­vi­ous spe­cial oper­a­tions mis­sion, ISAF offi­cials said. As a leader in Mohammad’s net­work in the Tan­gi Val­ley, Mohibul­lah had as many as 12 Tal­iban fight­ers under his com­mand, includ­ing poten­tial sui­cide bombers.

Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces received sev­er­al intel­li­gence leads and tips from local civil­ians and after an exhaus­tive man­hunt, ISAF offi­cials said, they locat­ed Mohibul­lah and the shoot­er as they were try­ing to flee the coun­try.

The secu­ri­ty force locat­ed and fol­lowed the insur­gents to a wood­ed area in the Chak dis­trict. After mak­ing sure no civil­ians were in the area, the force called for the airstrike that killed Mohibul­lah, the shoot­er and sev­er­al Tal­iban asso­ciates.

On the night of the dead­ly heli­copter crash, the inbound CH-47 car­ried spe­cial oper­a­tions forces in pur­suit of insur­gents from Mohammad’s net­work who were flee­ing from an engage­ment in which six mil­i­tants already had been killed, ISAF offi­cials said.

Allen said ISAF does not yet know if ene­my fire was the sole rea­son for the heli­copter crash, but on its approach, the air­craft encoun­tered small-arms fire from sev­er­al insur­gent loca­tions. An inves­ti­ga­tion into the crash and its caus­es began yes­ter­day when Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis, com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, appoint­ed Army Brig. Gen. Jef­frey Colt as lead inves­ti­ga­tor.

Ques­tions to be asked, Allen said, will include “What was the cause of the crash?” and “What lessons can be learned as a result of that cause?”

The answers, he said, ulti­mate­ly will feed back into the mis­sion eval­u­a­tion process to improve future mis­sions.

The crash was a trag­ic inci­dent in a very dif­fi­cult mil­i­tary cam­paign, Allen said. “How­ev­er,” he added, “it was a sin­gu­lar inci­dent in a broad­er con­flict in which we are mak­ing impor­tant strides and con­sid­er­able progress.”

Coali­tion forces face chal­lenges ahead and tough fights in the days to come, the gen­er­al said, but all across Afghanistan the insur­gents are los­ing.

“They’re los­ing ter­ri­to­ry. They’re los­ing lead­er­ship. They’re los­ing weapons and sup­plies. They’re los­ing pub­lic sup­port,” Allen said.

Vil­lages that seek to embrace Afghan local police in the Vil­lage Sta­bil­i­ty Oper­a­tions pro­gram are mobi­liz­ing their com­mu­ni­ties for their own secu­ri­ty, he added.

“That’s not wide­ly under­stood [or] … wide­ly cov­ered,” Allen said. “But that’s a great exam­ple of where the Tal­iban are los­ing ground and … influ­ence because they can no longer get inside the pop­u­la­tion of these areas.”

Across Afghanistan, he added, the insur­gents are los­ing resolve and the will to fight.

“They face relent­less pres­sure from coali­tion and, increas­ing­ly, Afghan forces,” he said.

Rein­te­gra­tion of for­mer insur­gents into Afghan soci­ety also is suc­ceed­ing, Allen said. The effort is an Afghan pro­gram sup­port­ed by coali­tion forces that across Afghanistan is begin­ning to see Tal­iban foot sol­diers ulti­mate­ly come for­ward and seek to rejoin soci­ety, becom­ing mem­bers of their vil­lages, he said.

Allen said more than 2,300 peo­ple have rein­te­grat­ed so far.

Suc­cess, the gen­er­al said, “is a func­tion of secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions. It’s a func­tion of the estab­lish­ment of Afghan local police. It’s a func­tion of the estab­lish­ment of cred­i­ble gov­er­nance [and] eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

The num­bers of for­mer Tal­iban fight­ers rejoin­ing soci­ety is an indi­ca­tion that the insur­gents are los­ing, Allen added. “We’re not declar­ing vic­to­ry, cer­tain­ly,” the gen­er­al said. “We rec­og­nize that there are going to be long days ahead and some pret­ty heavy lifts.”

But progress also is vis­i­ble in oth­er areas, Allen said. In July, he not­ed, the tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty began to the Afghan gov­ern­ment and Afghan forces.

“Our mil­i­tary is work­ing hand in hand with our civil­ian part­ners to secure the gains we have made by strength­en­ing the Afghan gov­ern­ment and by advanc­ing eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty,” Allen added.

Afghan forces have made immense strides in increas­ing their pro­fes­sion­al­ism and effec­tive­ness, he said.

“By the time our addi­tion­al 23,000 troops come out [of Afghanistan] by the end of Sep­tem­ber of next year, we’ll have seen on the order of 70,000 Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces come onto the field,” Allen said. “So it’s a trade-off in terms of the Afghans who are join­ing us in the bat­tle space with the forces that will be com­ing down.”

Allen said the Afghan forces are increas­ing­ly out in front, secur­ing ter­ri­to­ry, safe­guard­ing pop­u­la­tions and, when nec­es­sary, fight­ing and dying for their coun­try and their coun­try­men.

“We lost eight Afghans in this crash — brave Afghans — and we pay trib­ute as well to their ser­vice and to their sac­ri­fice,” the gen­er­al said.

Allen said he’s spo­ken with coali­tion and U.S. troops in the four cor­ners of Afghanistan and found them to be stead­fast in their com­mit­ment to the mis­sion.

“We remem­ber why we’re here in the first place,” he said, “and we know what is at stake.”

Allen said coali­tion forces intend to con­tin­ue to work very hard in the south through­out the cur­rent fight­ing sea­son and well into the fall and beyond.

“We’re going to fight all win­ter,” the gen­er­al said. “We’re going to attempt to dis­rupt the ene­my safe havens through­out the win­ter — the oppor­tu­ni­ty for him to rest and refit.”

In spring and sum­mer 2012, he said, “we will con­tin­ue to dis­rupt the ene­my and then spend a par­tic­u­lar amount of atten­tion in the east.”

As the coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign con­tin­ues in Afghanistan, Allen said, so will coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions such as the one that end­ed with the CH-47 crash.

“As our sur­face area decreas­es in Afghanistan, the role of coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions — and in par­tic­u­lar these kinds of spe­cial mis­sions — will become promi­nent,” he said. “With that as an antic­i­pat­ed out­come, we will pur­sue spe­cial oper­a­tions on a reg­u­lar basis, both now and for the fore­see­able future. And it will be an adjunct and a com­po­nent of the larg­er coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign.”

Whether they’re fight­ing in coun­terin­sur­gency or coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions, troops on the bat­tle­field in Afghanistan are com­mit­ted to suc­ceed, Allen said.

“They have my full and com­plete sup­port, and they know that they have the sup­port of a grate­ful nation that stands square­ly behind them,” the gen­er­al added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)