WASHINGTON (AP) - The military has opened an investigation into Saturday's devastating helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan that killed 30 U.S. troops and eight Afghans.
Pentagon officials would not discuss the details of the probe, but it will no doubt address a host of questions surrounding the crash, including a look at the insurgent threat and the instructions given to the special operations team crowded into the Chinook helicopter as it raced to assist other U.S. forces.
According to officials, the team, which included 22 Navy SEAL personnel, three Air Force troops, a five-member Army air crew and a military dog, was flying in to help U.S. Army Rangers who were going after insurgents on the ground. Seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter were also on board.
The helicopter apparently was shot down by an insurgent armed with a rocket-propelled grenade. It was the single deadliest loss in the decade-long war.
Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, has appointed Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt to lead the investigation. Colt is deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.
The investigation comes as the remains of the troops killed in the deadliest incident of the Afghan war came home Tuesday - shrouded in secrecy by a Defense Department that has refused so far to release the names of the fallen and denied media coverage of the arrival at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
The helicopter crashed as it attempted to land in the Tangi Valley, a dangerous region in Wardak province, where coalition forces were engaged in a firefight with insurgents. The mission was targeting a Taliban leader believed to be in the mountainous and militant-riddled Sayd Abad district of Wardak.
The investigation will review a number of basic crash questions, more likely to rule out things like the weather, terrain and mechanical issues, since military officials believe the helicopter was shot down.
It will then also look at the altitude and flight path of the Chinook as it moved into the fighting zone. Chinooks are heavy cargo helicopters that do not have the agility of smaller, more maneuverable aircraft.
There also will be questions about why that team was called in, what they knew about the situation on the ground and what protections they may have had against fire from the ground.