The ISAF claims to have killed the man (along with others) that pulled the trigger in the downing of the Chinook helicopter carrying Seal Team 6 members, inter alia, a couple of days ago. The press release in its entirety:
KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed the Taliban insurgents involved with the recent downing of the CH-47 helicopter, with a precision airstrike in Chak District, Wardak province, Aug 9.
The strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the shot associated with the Aug. 6 downing of the CH-47 helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of 38 Afghan and coalition service members.
Mullah Mohibullah was a key facilitator in an insurgent attack cell led by Din Mohammad, a Taliban leader killed in a previous special operations mission. As a leader in Mohammad’s network in Tangi Valley, Mohibullah had as many as 12 Taliban fighters under his command, including potential suicide bombers.
On the night of the crash, the inbound CH-47 carried special operations forces intended to pursue insurgents from Mohammad’s network that were fleeing an engagement in which six militants had already been killed. While it has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash, it did take fire from several insurgent locations on its approach.
After an exhaustive manhunt, special operations forces located Mullah Mohibullah and the shooter after receiving multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens. The two men were attempting to flee the country in order to avoid capture.
The security force located and followed the insurgents to a wooded area in Chak District. After ensuring no civilians were in the area, the force called for the airstrike which resulted in the deaths of the Mullah Mohibullah, the shooter, and several of their Taliban associates.
The security force assesses no civilians were harmed during the strike.
The statement seems self-contradictory. It states that “The strike killed…the insurgent who fired the shot associated with the Aug. 6 downing of the CH-47 helicopter” while conceding that “it has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash”.
Of course, parsing the statement as a lawyer might, killing the guy who fired the shot “associated” with the downing is not the same as killing the guy whose shot downed the helicopter. This is intentional. The headlines reporting on the press release will proclaim that the ISAF got the guys who downed the helicopter (e.g., the Wall Street Journal headline on the story is U.S. Says It Killed Taliban Behind Helicopter Attack), which has to be the intended effect of releasing the information in the manner with which it was released. The hedging with “associated” allows culpable deniability if anyone questions how in the world it can be known which particular Taliban pulled the trigger.
I can see the Sixty Minutes segment right now:
Leslie Stahl: So, you claim to have identified and killed in an airstrike the man–the “trigger man”–responsible for downing the Chinook. How is that possible?
Responds the Army General thrown under the bus: We didn’t claim to have killed the Taliban responsible for downing the Chinook. We said we killed the insurgent who fired the shot “associated” with the downing of the Chinook. We don’t know for sure whether his shot caused the helicopter crash.
Leslie Stahl: But you know for sure that at least one of the guys you killed had fired the shot?
Army General: We feel pretty certain, from intelligence assets we have in the area, that the people we killed were occupying insurgent locations from which the Chinook took fire.
There is no way to know whether this ISAF press release has even a kernel of truth. It could be a complete fabrication intended to calm the howls of derision back home over the tragic loss of thirty-eight lives in the Chinook crash. All we can really know is that a US military Chinook helicopter crashed on or about August 6, 2011, and thirty-eight people died, the bulk of which were members of the same Seal team that assassinated Bin Laden.
It was a bit pathetic that the ISAF and the US military rushed to explain that none of the Seal team members killed in the crash had participated in the assassination of Bin Laden. What possible difference would it have made if they had, except perhaps for the increased satisfaction Bin Laden supporters might have felt had it actually been the same Seal team that had killed Bin Laden. But surely, the impulse of Bin Laden supporters to avenge his death is not personal; so far as they’re concerned, any old Seal team member, or ISAF member of any type, should do.
If Afghanistan were worth losing thirty-eight lives over, the ISAF would not have felt compelled to issue this press release. Because it’s not worth losing thirty-eight lives in one fell swoop, the truth requires distortion, and perhaps even outright fabrication. The insanity of engagement in Vietnam was revealed through President Johnson’s compulsion to personally manage the bombing campaign from the basement of the White House. The ISAF (i.e., for all intents and purposes, the US military) has an even more difficult task in Afghanistan. Instead of the White House micro-managing its war effort, it is American public opinion that is its master. Fighting the war for support back home is at least as treacherous as fighting to gain territorial hegemony among the hills and valleys of Afghanistan. In the battle to get the public to support a war’s continuation, truth is always a casualty, as it is also the battleground.
Because the ISAF is biased and its information not verifiable, anything its says should be heavily discounted.