U.S. Troops’ Remains To Land At Dover AFB


DOVER, Del., Aug. 9 (UPI) — The United States will succeed in Afghanistan despite 30 U.S. troop deaths in a helicopter shot down by Islamist Taliban militia, President Barack Obama said.

“We will press on, and we will succeed,” Obama said Monday as the troops’ remains were being prepared to be flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Tuesday.

“Our responsibility is to ensure that their legacy is an America that reflects their courage, commitment and sense of common purpose,” Obama said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday the deaths were a sobering affirmation of the U.S. “resolve and commitment to complete the mission still at hand.”

No news coverage will be allowed of the remains’ arrival and solemn transfer ceremony at Dover because the individual bodies are officially unidentified, Pentagon officials said, although they acknowledged they knew exactly who was killed in the Saturday crash — the single deadliest day for U.S. troops in the decade-long Afghanistan war — and already invited next-of-kin to Dover for the ceremonial rite.

Officials, who also did not say when the service members’ remains would arrive at Dover, insisted they were not trying to limit images of the aftermath of one of the most catastrophic incidents of the Afghan war.

They were simply upholding a policy to preserve the dignity of the remains transfer, they said.

Pentagon Press Association President Nancy Youssef said the association was “seeking a way for the public to have a record of this poignant, important ceremony.”

In February 2009 the Obama administration relaxed an 18-year Pentagon ban on media coverage of returning U.S. war dead, leaving the decision to the families of the dead.

Dover is the home for the largest U.S. military mortuary and has been used to receive service members killed in war and peacetime.

The 30 service members killed Saturday were among 38 people in a Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-engine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift helicopter that was shot down and crashed while on a mission to reinforce troops trying to capture a Taliban leader in the Saidabad district of Afghanistan’s central-eastern Wardak province, a longtime Taliban stronghold, the U.S.-led command in Afghanistan said.

The Taliban said they shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Twenty-two of those killed were Navy SEALs from the Virginia Beach, Va., Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as SEAL Team Six — the same unit that carried out the March 2 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Three Air Force controllers and five crewmembers also died in the shootdown. Eight Afghans were also killed in the crash — seven commandos and a civilian interpreter.

The Chinook is one of the few Vietnam War-era aircraft still in production and in front-line service. Its primary roles include troop movement, artillery fortification and battlefield resupply.

There were at least two other fatal shootdowns by rocket-propelled grenades of Chinooks carrying special operations troops, in 2002 and 2005, Politico reported.

Obama said June 22 10,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn by the end the year and 23,000 more troops by next summer. That would leave about 70,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until 2014, the scheduled date for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.

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