Taliban fighters shot down an American CH-47 helicopter early Saturday morning in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak, killing 30 American troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, most from the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team 6 (NYT, Post, Post, AJE, Tel, LAT, McClatchy, Reuters, AP). The incident, marking the greatest loss of life for U.S. forces in a single day since the war began and a painful blow for the tight-knit Special Operations community, came as the SEALs were reportedly coming to the aid of U.S. Army Rangers pinned down by Taliban fire (WSJ, AP, CNN, AP, NPR, CBS, ABC, AFP, NYT, CNN, AP).
U.S. forces are continuing their recovery efforts and investigation into the attack, which brought renewed focus on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan’s east (NYT, BBC, NYT, CSM, LAT, Times). An Afghan official said Monday that the helicopter’s destruction was part of a "trap" laid by Taliban commander Qari Tahir in retaliation for the killing of Osama bin Laden, though the Taliban did not make that claim when they took credit for the killings (Tel, AFP). Another CH-47 made a "hard landing" Monday in Afghanistan’s east, though no casualties have been reported (Reuters).
The war’s toll
NATO is investigating the deaths of a woman and seven children allegedly from an airstrike Friday in the southern province of Helmand, while four Afghans were killed in a protest against civilian casualties in Zabul, and hundreds more protested against the reported deaths of two civilians in Ghazni province (NYT, Reuters, Reuters, CNN, Reuters). Also in Helmand 10 Afghan police were killed Sunday after their vehicle hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), bombs whose use have reached record levels (AFP, AFP, CBS).
In other news, the Pentagon announced Friday that U.S. Army tours of duty in war zones will be cut from one year to nine months, starting in January (AP, McClatchy, AP, CNN, National Journal). U.S. Army Spc. Adam Winfield was sentenced to three years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to manslaughter in relation to three Afghans allegedly killed intentionally by a group of soldiers for sport (AP, CNN, ABC, AFP, Reuters, LAT). And Britain’s ministry of defense is investigating claims that British soldiers cut off the fingers of dead Taliban fighters and kept them as souvenirs (Times).
Three stories round out the day: The Post has a must-read feature on the failure of American aid in Lashkar Gah, a city that was a focus of U.S. development efforts in the 1950s (Post). The Tribune reports that the United States has lost contact with Tayyeb Agha, a key aide to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the group’s interlocutor in talks with the United States (ET). And the BBC interviews five Bangladeshi men held captive by the Taliban for seven months (BBC).
Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari reportedly asked the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to rejoin his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government Friday, as the MQM said it would help the PPP restore peace in Karachi (Dawn, ET, DT).The two parties also worked out a deal to restore a form of local government in Sindh province, a move that drew protest from Sindhi nationalist parties and the Pashtun-nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) (ET, ET, Dawn, Dawn, ET). Both the MQM and PPP expressed some support for the possible creation of a new province in ethnic Seraiki areas of Punjab, while the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is expected to announce its support today for the splitting of Pakistan’s four provinces into as many as 13 (ET, Dawn, Dawn, ET, DT).
Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission said this weekend that 300 people were killed in Karachi last month, as the ANP called for the country’s army to be deployed to stem the bloodshed (AFP, ET). Three police officers were killed in Quetta Sunday after unknown assailants ambushed their car (CNN, Dawn, ET, DT). A bomb attack wounded 10 Pakistani troops Monday in South Waziristan (AFP). And a bombing Saturday near Peshawar destroyed at least 16 NATO fuel trucks bound for Afghanistan (AP, ET, AFP, Dawn).
The new CIA station chief has reportedly arrived in Islamabad, the third person to hold the position in seven months (ET). Experts have begun casting doubt on Chinese claims that extremists who are responsible for a wave of violence in the country’s Xinjiang province were trained in Pakistan (AJE, ET, AP). And the Tribune spoke to a "senior military official" this weekend, who said that Pakistan’s government has made little progress in taking apart purported networks of the hardline group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) (ET).
Indian police said this weekend that they had killed two commanders from the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Indian-administered Kashmir, including a "senior commander" named Abu Usman (Dawn). And according to reports, Britain and India have increased pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the front organization for LeT (ET). Bonus read: Stephen Tankel, "Lashkar-e-Taiba’s rise, before Mumbai" (FP).
Though nowhere near as popular in Pakistan as cricket, baseball has established a small foothold in the country (ET). The country’s national team, ranked 25th in the world, won the 2010 Asia Baseball Cup.