Early Saturday morning 31 members of the US special forces and 7 Afghan commandos were killed when the Taliban shot down a Chinook transport helicopter in the western province of Wardak in Afghanistan. It was the deadliest day for American forces in the nearly decade-long war the US has fought in Afghanistan.
President Obama offered deep condolences to the families of those killed, saying that “Their death is a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifice made by the men and women of our military and their families.” Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, said that he felt “deep sorrow and sadness” at the deaths of US servicemen.
The attack came after a night raid, a “tool that has been praised by American commanders as one of the most effective in the recent military offensive” but that has also been “heavily criticized” by Afghan officials and civilians, says the New York Times. About six such night raids have been carried out every night for the past two years and, says the Guardian, has been credited with weakening the Taliban. NATO has said that such night operations have been preferable to ones conducting during the day as they lower “the risk of all-out battles that could create even greater public anger.”
The previous greatest loss of life to the US was on June of 2005, when 16 Seals were killed after a Taliban rocket hit a Chinook in the eastern province of Kunar.
The attack, which was reportedly carried out by a rocket-propelled grenade, shows the extent to which the Taliban remain entrenched throughout Afghanistan, even away from southern Afghanistan and along the Afghan-Pakistani border where its strongholds are located.
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