International forces killed the Taliban insurgents responsible for shooting down a US helicopter and killing 38 US and Afghan forces Saturday, but the terror leader the slain troops were targeting is still at large, the top US commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday.
Marine Corps Gen. John Allen told a Pentagon news conference that an F-16 airstrike on Monday took out fewer than 10 insurgents involved in the attack on the Chinook helicopter.
In a separate statement Wednesday, the military said Monday's strike
killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohib Allah and the insurgent who fired the rocket-propelled grenade at the helicopter. The military said intelligence gained at the site of the strike provided a high degree of confidence the insurgent who fired the grenade was the person killed.
Allen defended the decision to send in the Chinook loaded with special operations forces to pursue insurgents escaping from the firefight with Army Rangers in a dangerous region of Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan.
"We've run more than a couple of thousand of these night operations over the last year, and this is the only occasion where this has occurred," said Allen. "The fact that we lost this aircraft is not ... a decision point as to whether we'll use this aircraft in the future. It's not uncommon at all to use this aircraft on our special missions."
While officials believe the helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, Allen said the military's investigation into the crash will also review whether small arms fire or other causes contributed to the crash.
Questions remain about why the troops were called in to aid other US combatants engaged in a firefight, what they knew about the situation on the ground, and what role the flight path or altitude may have played in the disastrous crash.
The investigation comes as the remains of the troops killed in the crash
were returned on Tuesday in an operation still shrouded in secrecy.