Dozens killed as Taliban shoot down NATO copter

Thirty-one US special operation troops and seven Afghan soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in the eastern Afghani province of Wardak after a Taliban attack.

­The incident marked the biggest single loss of life for American forces in the country since the start of the campaign back in 2001.

The Taliban claimed it was responsible for downing the aircraft with rocket fire, and an unnamed senior US administration official in Washington told the Associate Press news agency that it was likely the case.

An official investigation is still underway, but it is already clear that most of the personnel killed in the crash belonged to the elite Navy SEALs unit, which killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden this past May.

President Barack Obama mourned the deaths of the US troops, saying in a statement that the crash serves as a reminder of the “extraordinary sacrifices” being made by US military personnel and their families.

The US president added that he also mourned “the Afghans who died alongside our troops.”

Political analyst Habib Hakim believes that despite the high number of casualties, the US will not hasten the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, as the US leadership is well aware that “they are going to pay more in the war against Al Qaeda and Taliban, who are gaining ground in Afghanistan and becoming stronger and stronger day by day.”

“Of course, the US wants to reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan, but I don’t think they will withdraw all of their forces from the country by 2014 because it’ll be costly for the US and for the international community, as well as for the people and the government of Afghanistan,” he said.

According to Habib, the future of the US military in Afghanistan will depend on the reality on the ground in the country.

Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the antiwar organization Code Pink, argued that the presence of US troops in Afghanistan only strengthens the Taliban.

“It gives them a reason for being,” she told RT. “And the more that the US continues to be there, the more that the violence will continue. A report recently came out from the International Crisis Group that showed that despite billions of dollars in international aid and over a 100,000 NATO forces, the Afghan people are not able to be secure.”

The activist believes that the solution lies in negotiations.

“Everybody knows that this crisis has to end through negotiations,” Benjamin declared. “The sooner it happens the better. And I think this crash is really a time when we should say to ourselves in the United States: how many more of our soldiers’ lives are we willing to sacrifice for an unwinnable war?”

“Al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan,” she concluded. “They have moved on to Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. The US has no reason to be fighting the Taliban. The Taliban never attacked us in the United States, it only attacks our soldiers because we are occupying their country. So I think with the financial crisis in the United States, and now this tragic death of 31 more of our soldiers, it is time to really say, if you want to say, ‘Victory!’, and pull out… It’s time to get out.”