Just three months after the raid by Navy SEAL Team VI that killed Osama bin Laden, those same SEALs were in the news yet again--but for an entirely different reason.
On August 6, 2011, while on their way to assist an ongoing mission in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, the CH-47D Chinook helicopter that they were riding in was shot down by an RPG fired by a Taliban fire team approaching their landing zone in Tangi Valley. All 38 American and Afghan service members who were aboard perished, including 17 Navy SEALS, 5 Navy Special Operations
support personnel, 3 Air Force Special Tactics Airmen and the five-man Chinook crew, marking the largest loss of life in America’s 11 years of military operations in Afghanistan. Twenty of the twenty-two SEALs and SEAL support were from SEAL Team VI (DEVGRU).
The parents of one of the SEALs killed in the Chinook attack, Special Operations Chief Aaron Vaughn, are raising questions about how the Obama administration has pushed the limits of the military’s Special Operations Forces as part of its war policy (e.g. the Feb. 20th Newsweek story, “Obama’s Secret Army”), and how constrictive “rules of engagement” intended to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people directly contributed to the deaths of all those aboard the helicopter.
Karen and Billy Vaughn are now trying to raise awareness of some of the problems that they believe continue to cause American service members to be killed in Afghanistan. And to support their case they have a copy of the redacted, now declassified CENTCOM report on the incident that they say raises more questions than it answers.
The report, made available to Breitbart News, was prepared by Brigadier General Jeffrey Colt and presented to CENTCOM Commander Marine General James Mattis.
“We were given a copy of the report, but it was months before we even looked at it,” says Karen Vaughn. “But as Billy and I started to read it and talk to others inside the community we found that many of the problems that contributed to Aaron’s death were widespread. That’s when we decided we had to speak out.”
One of the main concerns for the Vaughns is the operational tempo for special operations forces in Afghanistan. The CENTCOM report itself notes that in August 2009 the number of monthly objectives was 54. But in August 2011 – the month that the helicopter, "Extortion 17," was shot down – that number had grown to 334 objectives, more than a 600 percent increase in just two years.
Another outstanding issue is that Afghan military and police forces are involved in planning every special operations mission, creating a possible problem with operational security.
“We’re seeing the number of these green-on-blue attacks by Afghan troops rising, but these are some of the same people we’re trusting with the details of our most sensitive missions,” Billy Vaughn told me.
Another complaint heard by the Vaughns throughout the special operations community is that because so many special operations forces are in the field, they must rely on conventional forces and conventional equipment, rather than the specialized equipment typically used by special forces.
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