Rep. Jason Chaffetz said on Wednesday that Congress will investigate the 2011 helicopter crash that killed 30 Americans in Afghanistan, including 22 members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 unit.
“We’re going to dive into this,” the Utah Republican, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, told The Hill.
The deadly attack occurred on Aug. 6, 2011, three months after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by Team 6 forces. The death toll was the largest of any single incident for the U.S. military during the Afghanistan war.
Family members of the victims have told the Hill that the Pentagon has not provided answers to their many questions about the incident.
Chaffetz said he met with the victims’ families about a month ago in what he described to the Hill as an “emotional” gathering. He plans to send questions to the Pentagon and may hold hearings on the attack, he said.
Charlie Strange, whose son Michael was among those killed, told the Hill that he asked President Barack Obama two years ago at Dover Air Force Base to investigate the attack.
Obama praised Michael’s service to his father, though Charlie Strange responded: “I don’t need to know about my son. I need to know what happened to my son.”
Obama promised an investigation, but Strange told the Hill that he never heard back from the White House. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has provided him and others with incomplete and contradictory information, he told the Hill.
The helicopter, a CH-47 Chinook, was shot down by Afghan militants, and all 38 on board perished. Among the dead were 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALS, seven Afghan soldiers and one Afghan translator, the Hill reports.
Their bodies were later recovered, but the helicopter’s black box was not. The Pentagon has said that it could not be recovered because of a flash flood that occurred soon after the attack.
The bodies were cremated because they all had been badly burned, Pentagon officials said.
But Chaffetz told the Hill that he had seen a photo of one deceased SEAL that was not.
“The body I saw didn’t need to be cremated,” the congressman said.
He added that the Defense Department’s explanation of its failure to recover the helicopter’s black box seemed “awfully odd.”
Chaffetz said the families deserved answers.
“That’s why you do an investigation,” he told the Hill. “I want to be as factual as I can.”
Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman declined to answer detailed questions from the Hill, but said “the operational planning and execution of this mission was consistent with previous missions” and “was thoroughly investigated.
“We share in the grief of all of the families who lost their loved ones,” the spokesman said. “The loss of 38 U.S. and Afghan military personnel was a tragic loss during a difficult campaign.”
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