They had their man.
U.S. intelligence sources at last confirmed the exact location of Qari Tahir, a senior Taliban elevated in importance for America following the killing of Osama bin Laden three months earlier.
In the early morning hours of August 6, 2011, two troop-transporting Chinook helicopters with call signs Extortion 16 and 17, lifted off amid clouds of dust. Aboard were, writes Air and Space Smithsonian, a platoon of the 75th Ranger Regiment, members of an Afghan special operations and elements of SEAL Team 6, the same unit that had filled Osama with lead months prior. Accompanying the helos were “two U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, an Air Force AC-130 gunship, and a small fleet of unmanned surveillance aircraft”.
The force made their way 20 miles west to the village of Juy Zarin. Somewhere along the way, amidst sporadic resistance, a Taliban fighter launched an RPG at Extortion 17, hitting the helo and killing all 38 personnel on board. It would be the greatest single incident loss of life of the war in Afghanistan.
One of those aboard was Aaron Carson Vaughn, a Navy SEAL. On December 28, his father, Billy Vaughn appeared on Fox News to talk about his son and President’s Trump handling of the war.
An investigation of the incident was conducted months after the shoot down and it was then that the senior Vaughn learned that there were a series of events and policies that may have contributed to a “negligent, reckless loss of life”, reports the Independent Journal Review (IJR).
“The helicopter pilots,” Vaughn explained, “when they were giving testimony, one of them said that there was a one in a million chance that they could get pre-assault fire approved and the other one said we never ask for it because it’s never approved anymore. It was two different testimonies at two different times. That could have saved the warfighters that night.”
“Also that night,” continued Vaughn, “the AC-130 overhead asking to engage multiple times enemy combatants on the ground was not allowed to engage those enemy combatants with weapons and it’s very likely that one of those enemy combatants took that chopper down that night.”
It is a bitter pill to swallow for any parent who finds out more could have been done to better safeguard our warriors.
Then Vaughn highlighted the difference between President Trump and Obama:
“President Trump in August said that he was going to give more authority to the war fighters on the ground, to those people. Under President Obama, a lot of that authority, as you made an earlier comment earlier tonight, was being done by people back in Washington D.C. inside the White House who had never seen the theatre of war, who had never been in the battlefield at night with bullets whizzing by heads.”
Obama prided himself on filling his cabinet with the ‘smartest people’. That works (sometimes) in offices grappling with theoretical issues, but in the sweat, blood and tears of combat, you need tried and true men of uniform.