Helicopter Crash In Afghanistan Takes Deadly Toll

Aug 6, 2011
Originally published on August 7, 2011 7:23 am
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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

NPR's Pentagon reporter Tom Bowman joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM BOWMAN: Oh, you're welcome, Scott.

SIMON: And what are U.S. officials saying about the crash and the details that President Karzai has put out?

BOWMAN: There's no indication of any survivors. They do have control of the crash site, we're told, and they say there is no fighting there right now, so they're moving to a recovery operation. But you're not going to hear anything more really until the next of kin are notified and that effort is ongoing right now.

SIMON: Tom, do we know anything about the nature of the mission, if that's what was happening in eastern Afghanistan?

BOWMAN: President Karzai condemned them because sometimes civilians get caught in the crossfire or they go to the wrong house. But the other thing is eastern Afghanistan now is becoming the big fight, now that the southern part of the country, around Kandahar province and Helmand province, those areas are becoming more and more pacified.

SIMON: The Taliban is claiming to have downed a helicopter in a rocket attack. Is that plausible? Is the Taliban in Afghanistan - eastern Afghanistan - strong enough to do that?

BOWMAN: Now there are plans, by the way, to shift more U.S. troops within the country to the eastern part of Afghanistan next year because of the growing strength of the Taliban.

SIMON: Tom, you've spent so much time embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. And, of course, the Navy Seals unit most recently celebrated for participating in the raid that got Osama bin Laden. This has got to be a terrible blow to morale. And help us understand that, even as NATO and U.S. forces are beginning to talk a modest drawdown.

BOWMAN: And it's the largest number of American forces killed in this kind of an incident since 2005 when 16 Special Operations Forces were killed in a similar helicopter shoot down. So this is a real big blow.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Bowman, thanks so much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.