As U.S. forces decrease in Afghanistan, much more of the war is likely to be fought in the shadows by elite forces who issue few press releases or statements about their strategy. Three of the seven U.S. service personnel killed in Thursday's crash were special operations forces — two Navy SEALS and a Navy explosives expert, U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information.
The crash killed all of those aboard — seven U.S. troops, three members of the Afghan security forces and an Afghan civilian interpreter, said Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the coalition.
The downed helicopter was a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, a medium-lift helicopter that has served as the U.S. Army's workhorse since the 1980s.
The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan has relied heavily on utility helicopters such as the Black Hawk to ferry troops, dignitaries and supplies around the mountainous terrain, thus avoiding the threat of ambushes and roadside bombs.
Thursday's crash was the deadliest since a Turkish helicopter struck a house near the Afghan capital, Kabul, on March 16, killing 12 Turkish soldiers on board and four Afghan civilians on the ground, officials said. In August 2011, insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing 30 American troops, mostly elite Navy SEALs, in Wardak province in central Afghanistan.
At least 1,961 U.S. service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan over the course of the 11-year war.
Casualties have jumped each year in the summer, when warm weather makes it easier for insurgents to move through mountain passes and carry out attacks. The three deadliest months of the war for U.S. troops have been in summer: August 2011, 71 deaths; July 2010, 65 deaths; June 2010, 60 deaths. During the winter, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have tended to bed down to wait out the cold.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Amir Shah, Kay Johnson and Deb Riechmann in Kabul contributed to this report.
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