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  • Flying low over the Afghan treetops, an elite  unit of special operators from three different  

  • American military branches and the Afghan army  huddle together tightly inside their helicopter.  

  • The mood is tense; the night is dark. Each man  prepares for the dangerous mission in his own way.  

  • Some tell lighthearted jokes or make small  talk. Others focus intently on what is to come  

  • constantly rehearsing his own role in the  matter. While the rest simply sit in silence  

  • contemplating what tomorrow will hold as  the days tick down until they rotate home

  • They've been waiting for hours at this point  until the call finally comes over the radio  

  • to go into action. American forces on the  ground have radioed for assistance and it is  

  • their job to help accomplish the missionAs they cut their way through the humid,  

  • Afghan night, they can see their landing  zone barely visible over the treetops.  

  • The massive helicopter they are in  starts to slow and make its descent

  • One mike out!” Roars the pilot over the radioThe men start to stand and brace themselves for  

  • the mad dash they are going to have to make  once the helicopter touches the ground. They  

  • are checking magazines and weapon conditions  while tightening the helmet straps they loosened  

  • for the ride over here. Then, disaster strikes.

  • With no sound; no warning the aircraft bursts  into flames. There is a tremendous explosion and  

  • within five seconds thirty-one American and seven  Afghan lives are lost. But what exactly happened  

  • to Extortion 17 (pronounced ONE-SEVENto cause it to go down in a ball of fire  

  • and cause one of the largest single-day losses of  life in 21st century American military history.? 

  • Qari Tahir, Taliban commander and  linchpin of the Taliban resistance,  

  • needed to go down. Either arrest or  termination, the man was too dangerous  

  • to be left alive. To get its man, the US  military turned to a mix of Navy SEALs,  

  • Air Force Pararescuemen, Explosive Ordnance  Disposal, US Army Rangers, and Afghan commandos.

  • Tahir was in charge of all Taliban forces  in the Tangi Valley of Wardak province.  

  • This was a strategic area since it was only  60 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul  

  • where Taliban fighters had been launching  deadly attacks in the heart of the country  

  • with near impunity for years. American and  coalition forces had tried repeatedly to  

  • control this region but it remained  effectively a Taliban stronghold.  

  • After multiple operations to subdue the region  with little success, American commanders were  

  • ecstatic when they received reliable intelligence  that Tahir was going to be located at a compound  

  • with a lighter than usual bodyguard. This  presented the perfect opportunity to not only  

  • cut the head off the snake of the local Taliban  but would enable the coalition to gain valuable  

  • insight into how the Taliban were so successfully  able to elude their best efforts to contain them

  • American officers knew from the beginning  the mission was going to be high risk.  

  • The compound where the supposed meeting was  taking place with Tahir was in a terrorist  

  • hotbed with little to no support from localsMaking matters worse, the natural geography  

  • of the valley presented only one way in and one  way out- an easy kill zone for enemy defenders.  

  • Compounding these difficulties was that there was  almost zero illumination that night meaning the  

  • pilots and crew would have extreme difficulty  seeing any incoming fire and have less time to  

  • react than usual. Lastly, if that were not enoughTaliban fighters had started to become much more  

  • active at night in response to the increased use  of night raids by special forces in the area

  • In short, American forces were going up  against a well entrenched, battle-hardened  

  • and experienced enemy who had geography  and the cover of darkness on his side.  

  • Definitely not the most ideal of circumstances. American commanders wanted to keep the element  

  • of surprise but were prepared to engage whatever  enemy forces they might find. The plan of attack  

  • was to insert a platoon of Army Rangers by the  compound who would then sweep in to capture  

  • Tahir while he was in the building. The Navy  SEALs and their accompanying support personnel  

  • would be on standby at the Forward Operating Base  they were based out of. This force was intended to  

  • be the reserve force in case the Rangers did  not succeed or needed help before the target  

  • could get away. Two Apache attack helicoptersan AC-130 gunship, and multiple Intelligence,  

  • Surveillance, and Reconnaissance aircraft were  tasked with providing support to the mission

  • At approximately 2258 local time the Ranger  platoon was inserted onto the objective.  

  • At about the same time, friendly aircraft noticed  a group of eight Taliban fighters walking in a  

  • single file line north of the compound. One of the Apache gunships opened fire  

  • and killed six of them while the other two  were sent fleeing into the night for their  

  • lives. Over the next several hours, the  Rangers battled to control the compound.  

  • By about 245 in the morning, the compound was  secure with no sight of the Taliban leader. It  

  • was thought that the leader had fled before the  Americans could arrive and that his most trusted  

  • fighters made a last-ditch effort to delay his  pursuers long enough to give him time to escape

  • This theory was backed up with the fact that  the two fighters who escaped the initial attack  

  • by the Apache gunship were joined throughout the  firefight by more and more Taliban, making their  

  • group between nine and ten members by 215 in the  morning. American commanders believed that Tahir  

  • was among these fighters and that action needed  to be taken immediately to prevent his escape.  

  • It was then decided to send in the SEALs. During the firefight with the Taliban at the  

  • compound, American planners assumed that the  Taliban commander would be alerted to their  

  • presence and make his escape. That is why at  0100 local preparations were already underway to  

  • insert the Immediate Reaction Force, or IRF, that  comprised the SEALS and their supporting members

  • The landing zone that was picked out  was thoroughly studied before and was  

  • previously approved for earlier missions but never  utilized. The pilots that flew the aircraft were  

  • also extremely experienced with thousands of  hours of flight time including hundreds of hours  

  • of combat experience. The helo was alsoblacked  out”- meaning absolutely no light emissions were  

  • allowed from the aircraft, which could give an  easy target for any Taliban gunners below. The  

  • one precaution that was the most sound was also  the most controversial. The two CH-47D Chinook  

  • helicopters used to insert the Ranger platoon  earlier were also utilized for the SEAL insertion,  

  • but instead of splitting the men between the  two aircraft, they were combined onto one

  • This would prove a fatal mistake. Why it was decided to put the entire  

  • IRF in one helo was actually a matter of sound  operating principles utilized throughout the war  

  • and especially in this area. Multiple  helicopters would present multiple  

  • targets to the Taliban. Especially in their  most vulnerable landing and takeoff phases,  

  • when the helios would be unable to utilize their  missile defense measures or maneuver to safety.

  • Safety concerns may sound extreme, but this  threat was not some figment of their imagination

  • Over the past several months, there had  been at least four attempted downings of  

  • helicopters by Taliban fighters using  rocket-propelled grenades and other  

  • small arms. Though wildly inaccurate  and basic, these weapons were still  

  • a force to be reckoned with in the hands  of the right user and with a bit of luck.

  • As fate would have it, luck would  be on the Taliban side that night

  • As Extortion 17 made its way over the treetops  it slowed its speed to about 50 knots or almost  

  • 60 miles per hour, while also dropping to between  100 to 150 feet. The helo made its approach from  

  • the northwest and was trying to touch down near  some fields as it had to pass over several qalats  

  • or mud buildings on the way down. It was here  that the Taliban fired between two to three  

  • rocket-propelled grenades at the aircraft. The first one missed but at least one other  

  • hit its mark. The warhead exploded  near the end of the aft rotor blade  

  • taking off over 10 feet of blade. This in turn  caused a simultaneous catastrophic failure  

  • of the aircraft's integrity which quickly  brought it down in a matter of seconds.

  • In the mangled wreckage of the once-mighty  Chinook, there were no survivors

  • Immediately after the downing, the circling  Chinook helicopter radioed that they could  

  • see the other aircraft burning and needed helpThe Rangers quickly broke from the compound and  

  • rushed over to the wreckage. Once on the scenethey immediately set up a perimeter to prevent  

  • the Taliban from swooping in to finish off their  comrades and they started searching for survivors

  • Unfortunately, by the end of the morningthe search for survivors was complete  

  • and all 38 on board were confirmed killed. An  Army ground convoy was dispatched to transport  

  • the remains and additional Special Forces units  were called in to help sort out the wreckage.  

  • Once all the remains were loaded onto the  convoy, recovery efforts began in earnest

  • What the Army wanted to know from the wreckage  was why one of their most combat-tested aircraft  

  • suddenly and without warning plummeted from  the sky. Had it been a freak accident? Was it  

  • a mechanical failure of the aircraftHad the Taliban acquired some new,  

  • advanced weapon systems capable of downing  aircraft with ease? The answers to these  

  • questions and many more were sought not only by  the Army, but by the families of the deceased,  

  • Central Command leadership, and the US Congress. Initial reports from the Taliban stated that the  

  • weapon that brought down the helicopter was the  standard RPG commonly utilized throughout the  

  • country. While some locals speculated that the  Taliban had in fact acquired a new weapon from  

  • Pakistan, these reports were unsubstantiated and  not backed up by the investigation conducted by  

  • the Army. The Army wanted to know how such  a weapon, with a max effective range of a  

  • little over several hundred yards, could  take down an aircraft with only one shot.  

  • To prove this conclusively, the Army firedsimilar weapon system at the exact same blades  

  • and was able to replicate the damage perfectlythereby concluding without a doubt that an RPG  

  • could in fact cause such catastrophic damage. But what of the Taliban fighter who fired that  

  • one in a million shot? Apparently, after  the battle American forces intercepted  

  • radio communications from him bragging about  what he had done. However, the celebration was  

  • short-lived. Several days later he and the Taliban  leader who was the focus of the failed raid  

  • were cornered and killed in an airstrike. A follow  on team confirmed their deaths after the fact

  • Extortion 17 was brought down by a lucky, one inmillion shot, and sadly over three dozen of the US  

  • and Afghan military's finest were all killed  in the span of seconds. While many doubt the  

  • official investigation and insist something else  must have happened, the sad truth is that that's  

  • just the way war goes sometimes, even if that fact  brings no comfort to the families of the deceased

  • Now for more of the best military content check  out this video right now, or this one instead!

Flying low over the Afghan treetops, an elite  unit of special operators from three different  

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/03
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