By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
Amid the 1200-page military investigation into the crash in Wardak province in August are photos of the helicopter. These are the first photos released by the military of the crash that killed 38 on board, including 22 Navy SEALS. It was the biggest loss of life in a single day for the U.S. in the ten years of fighting in Afghanistan.
According to the report, the SEALS had been called in to reinforce other troops already in combat. Just before landing, Taliban fighters hiding in a building fired rocket propelled grenades. The rear blades were hit. The helicopter crashed in seconds.
The report concludes there was no wrongdoing. But the mission may not have been optimally planned, and changes are being instituted for future missions. Investigators found that three hours into the combat operations the Taliban had key advantages. Those advantages made the helicopter, flying in to help the embattled troops, more vulnerable.
"These bad guys had been shot at. They were alert. They were leaning forward. They were prepared for the next shoe to fall and then what happened is a Chinook appeared in their crosshairs and they took advantage of it," said Spider Marks, a former senior intelligence officer who reviewed some of the report for CNN.
The steep mountain valley, with limited access points, gave the Taliban the critical edge to see what was coming at them. Investigators were told "there's two ways in, two ways out, north or south."
As was routine, even with this area full of Taliban troops and weapons, U.S. military planners were not given critical information about the helicopters specific route. Information that could have further helped avoid risk.
"One of the outcomes of this was, hey, we have been asking for it, but we never received it. Now, we are getting them," one of the them told investigators.
The report also found that the Taliban commander the United States was pursuing turned out to mainly pose a local threat, and was not considered to be a threat against larger population centers like Kabul. The target was was killed last month in combat operations.