Streetwise Professor

August 6, 2011

Prayers and a Question

Filed under: Military — The Professor @ 12:05 pm

By now you’ve no doubt heard or read the news about the loss of a US helo with 38 troops aboard.  The most recent reports state that 22 of the dead are from Seal Team Six (also known as DEVGRU)–the same unit responsible for killing Bin Laden in May.

Also among the dead were 7 Afghan commandos and a translator, as well as USAF personnel.

Helluva coincidence.  I imagine there are delirious celebrations amongst the jihadis.

At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, the deaths of men in the same unit (perhaps including some of the same men–we’ll likely never know) that killed Bin Laden so soon after the event raises some very dark possibilities.  This could well be a case of the Golden BB (or RPG, in this instance, apparently).  But other explanations come to mind.

The SEALs are fanatical about operational security, but given the involvement of Afghan personnel it is not improbable that some Afghan authorities, or intel sources within the Taliban who provided the information which was used in the planning of the mission, were aware of the operation.  And some “trusted” Afghans are not all that trustworthy: recall the incident in January of 2010 in which a “trusted” Afghan Jordanian informant entered a CIA camp in Afghanistan to meet with American agents, and then detonated a suicide belt, killing 7 CIA officers including the station chief?

Again, betrayal is not necessarily the most likely explanation.  In war, bad stuff happens.  Even the best of the best can be the unlucky victims of a random shot.  Moreover, like I say, the SEALs are fanatical about operational security and are certainly aware of the dubious reliability of their ostensible allies, and would be on guard against it.  But betrayal is not out of the realm of possibility, especially in the AfPak cesspool, where mortal treachery is as common as air.  There was–is–no bigger target for jihadis than those who killed Bin Laden.  To those of that turn of mind, aiding in their deaths would be a ticket to paradise.  There is certainly motive here, and quite likely opportunity.  Thus it is not unreasonable to countenance the possibility that the MH-47  was flying into an ambush.

My prayers go out to the brave men who perished, and to their families.  But a question lingers in my mind: was this the fortunes of war, or something more sinister?

Update: The most recent reports are that unnamed “US officials believe” that none of those who died in the crash participated in the Bin Laden mission.  That doesn’t change the fact that inflicting a major blow on ST6 would be a jihadist’s dream.  What’s more, these kind of reports must be taken with huge doses of skepticism because of the desire to conceal the identities of operators.

Belmont Club also raises the “Payback” hypothesisDitto Steve Hayward at Powerline.

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  1. I’d be inclined to think it was a coincidence. DEVGRU is pretty big and according to this (which is well worth reading, BTW) they have carried out hundreds of similar raids over the past few years. It was only a matter of time before they lost a chopper. Also worth considering, for me anyway, is that a good friend of mine, a major in the British special forces, was inserted by chopper right into a Taliban position purely by accident. The resulting shootout cost the life of one of his men. I know another British SF guy whose Chinook was shot down during an insertion, fortunately it was at low enough altitude to crash-land.

    Comment by Tim Newman — August 6, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

  2. @Tim. Yeah. Shit happens, and like you say, you roll the dice enough and you’re bound to lose eventually. A small SEAL team had an experience similar to your good friend in summer ’05–3 kia, one made it out. But you know SOCOM is paid to be paranoid, and will be walking back everything to see whether the operation was compromised or betrayed.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 6, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

  3. 9/11 needed a lot of bad luck as well. Shit happens.

    Comment by So? — August 7, 2011 @ 2:06 am

  4. A single helo provided a surprisingly large attractive target for any Muslim opposition force. I too mourn thel loss of these warriors and give my prayers to their families.

    Comment by pahoben — August 7, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

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