Another US Helicopter Downed, This Time in Afghanistan
Taliban used some sort of rocket to shoot down a US helicopter in Afghanistan, killing all 17 servicemen aboard.
This is the second US helicopter lost this week. Earlier in the week, Iraqi guerrillas north of Baghdad downed one, killing two US soldiers.
It is not clear if these are rocket propelled grenade strikes, which are difficult to pull off and therefore rare, or if Taliban and Iraqi guerrillas are getting hold of shoulder-fired missiles, which would be more dangerous to the US in both places. What kind of missile used, if so, would also be telling. Old SA-7s, manufactured by the Soviet Union, don’t appear to be very sophisticated and are seldom still in good working order (one of these was used unsuccessfully against an Israeli jet liner at Mombasa). SA-14s and SA-16s are more deadly, with electronic heat-seeking capability. I’m told that despite the serial numbers, SA-14s are deadlier.
Milt Bearden, the CIA station chief in Pakistan during the 1980s, has long held that the US provision to the Mujahidin (predecessors of the Taliban) in Afghanistan of Stinger missiles to use against Soviet helicopter gunships was key to their victory.
If the sophistication of the weaponry in Afghanistan and Iraq increases, it could signal a two-front, hard-fought war for the US. I am not sure how many shoulder-fired missile launchers are out there on the world market already.
Meanwhile, Bush’s speech on Iraq appears to have drawn a remarkably small audience on television. NBC’s broadcast of it only drew about 5 million viewers. That is not a very good prime time statistic. If I’m not mistaken, Jay Leno’s late-night comedy and interview show does something on that order. My guess is that Americans do not like the subject of Iraq because it is clearly bad news, and did not expect Bush actually to give them any good news. They were right, of course.