The Chinook helicopter went down Saturday during an anti-Taliban operation in Wardak province. Thirty U.S. troops, seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed.
NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen told reporters Monday that the coalition has not yet determined what caused the crash, despite the Taliban claim that militants shot the aircraft down. Unnamed U.S. officials also said the helicopter was hit as it was flying into the remote Tangi Valley.
Jacobsen said the crash site was being secured and that nobody was being allowed into the area while the investigation is ongoing.
U.S. officials says 22 of the dead were Navy SEAL commandos, including members of SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May. Officials say those killed in the helicopter crash did not take part in the bin Laden mission.
The troops were reportedly flying into the remote area to reinforce a ground unit of U.S. Army Rangers who were under fire from insurgents.
NATO spokesman Jacobsen says that despite the “tragic loss,” the military campaign against insurgents will continue and the enemy will be “relentlessly pursued.”
Earlier on Monday, another coalition helicopter made a hard landing in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia. NATO said there were no casualties and that there were no initial reports of enemy activity in the area. The cause of the incident was being investigated.
Late Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, to reiterate his condolences for the tragic loss of 30 American troops in Wardak. A White House statement said Mr. Obama noted the extraordinary service of the Americans who gave their lives, and expressed his condolences for the Afghans who died serving with them.
The two sides also reaffirmed their commitment to the mission in Afghanistan, which they said was critical to the security of both countries.
Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, with international troop and Afghan civilian deaths reaching record levels.