By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2011 – An investigation will determine the facts surrounding the deaths of 30 U.S. service members and eight Afghan commandos when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter went down in Afghanistan’s Wardak province Aug. 6, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan warned against jumping to conclusions about the incident.
“Any conclusions are premature until we conduct an investigation to determine the facts,” he said during an informal meeting with Pentagon reporters. Leaks of information resulted in reporting that was “all over the place in terms of facts that were not accurate,” Lapan said.
“It’s never helpful when people get out in the immediate aftermath of an incident like this and start providing information that one, can be inaccurate and lead to inaccurate reporting, and two, can be speculative about what may or may not have happened,” he added.
A rocket-propelled grenade shot down the helicopter, Pentagon officials said today. Five of the U.S. casualties were aircrew members, and 25 were members of U.S. Special Operations Command. It was the largest loss of life in a single combat incident in Afghanistan, officials said.
Lapan caution reporters against reading too much into a single combat incident. As tragic as the loss of life is, he said, it is not a trend, but an anomaly.
“This one single incident does not represent any watershed or trend,” Lapan said. “As we have said continuously, the Taliban was going to come back hard. They weren’t going to take the losses that they have suffered lightly. They were going to try to inflict casualties not only on us, but the Afghans, and those are the things we are seeing.”
The Taliban are still on the run, and the coalition and its Afghan partners have reversed the momentum of the insurgent group, the colonel said, adding that special operations forces will continue to drive on.
“In the immediate aftermath, they press on with the mission,” the colonel said. “It is an unfortunate fact of the business we’re in that we take casualties, and our folks are well-trained to recognize that they can’t let the loss of their comrades deter them from the mission, especially since this is a very dangerous undertaking, and you can’t afford to lose focus.”