Yesterday’s successful Taliban attack on a Chinook CH-47 helicopter that killed 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALS, raises serious questions about the risks of U.S. night raids. Bob Mulholland, a longtime Democratic Party operative and disabled Vietnam veteran, issued a scathing analysis:
“The Americans taught the Afghans why it was important to shoot down the big Russian helicopters (because) you would kill more of them per missile. Twenty-five years later the American military packs as many American troops in a helicopter as possible. And they will continue to do so because ‘it won’t happen again.’ I doubt if anyone will get relieved of duty.”
As the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday, “large and slow-moving, the Chinook is vulnerable as it flies through mountains and valleys that allow insurgents clear lines of fire.” In 2005, another Chinook was shot down in Kunar province, resulting in 19 deaths of SEALS and special operations troops.
What effect the nightly operations are having on the Taliban is largely unknown, since the operations are secret from the American media and public. But the Taliban attack is undeniable evidence that the insurgents have staying power as the U.S. begins to withdraw. The Chinook catastrophe is being called “bin Ladin’s revenge” by many in Afghanistan, and shatters any Western PR claims to success.
Instead of curbing the night raids as often demanded by Afghan president Hamid Karzai and others, the likely U.S. response will be to repeat the high-risk policy in the name of revenge. As the head of the U.S. Central Command declared, “this loss will only make the rest of us more determined, something that may be difficult for those who aren’t in the military to understand.”