Six U.S. forces died Tuesday after their helicopter went down in southern Afghanistan, defense officials said. It marks the single deadliest event for the United States in the war there this year, and already has raised eyebrows because of the conflicting reports coming out of Kabul.
An initial statement by the International Security Assistance Force, which oversees coalition military operations, said the crash was under investigation and no insurgents were in the area. At the Pentagon, a defense official initially said an investigation had been launched into potential engine failure -- but later switched gears and said it was unclear if that was the case. That came as both CBS News and NBC News reported that defense officials reported on condition of anonymity said the helicopter -- reportedly a UH-60 Blackhawk -- initially made a "hard landing" in Zabul province and came under attack afterward. At least one person on board the aircraft was injured and survived, U.S. officials told CBS.
The situation was clouded by the uncertainty that always goes with initial battlefield reports. U.S. officials were working Tuesday to determine more details in the crash.
The Taliban, meanwhile, took credit for the crash on Twitter. Using an account labeled "Abdulqahar Balkhi," they said the helicopter was shot down about 3 p.m. and "crashed in ball of flame." They are known to color the facts on social media to make events sounds worse than in reality, however.
A US-nato helicopter was shot down by Mujahideen 3pm local time today while flying at a low altitude over Shahjoi district (#Zabul)...— Abdulqahar Balkhi (@ABalkhi) December 17, 2013
Until Tuesday, no more than five U.S. troops had been killed in any one incident so far this year, the 13th in the military campaign that began weeks after 9/11. Five U.S. soldiers were killed in a March 11 crash in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in Kandahar province. Four airmen were killed April 27 when their MC-12 Liberty spy plane crashed near Kandahar Airfield. On both days, two other service members in other parts of the country were killed, making Tuesday the third deadliest in the war in Afghanistan this year.
U.S. Army photo