Helicopter crash kills dozens in Afghanistan: implications for US war effort?
Helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan killed 31 US special forces troops and seven Afghan commandos. Officials are working to determine if insurgents brought down the craft, and if so, what technology allowed them to do so.
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“This technology and how the Taliban have accessed it raise the question from where and from what sources were they able to get such technology,” says Waliullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies. “If the Taliban is able to get regular access to these technologies, it will certainly have a significant, unfortunately dangerous effects for the future of the war in Afghanistan.”Skip to next paragraph
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During the Soviet Union's war here, the United States supplied Afghan fighters with shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles that definitively turned the conflict against the Soviets.
Over the course of the past 10 years, insurgents have had little if any access to such weapons, giving NATO forces much needed air superiority. Given regional tensions, particularly with Pakistan, concerns are likely to be magnified if Afghanistan's neighbors are found to be supplying such weapons to the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
Impact on public opinion
Today’s crash comes as public opinion has turned increasingly against US involvement in the war. A Quinnipiac University poll last month found that 55 percent of Americans think the US should not be involved in Afghanistan, with only 39 percent saying the US is doing the right thing by fighting the war.
That’s not necessarily because of pessimism about the direction of the war. Recent polls indicate that more than half of Americans think the war is going at least fairly or somewhat well. But the country’s rising debt and fiscal uncertainty have raised doubts about the cost of the war – and defense spending in general.
While the large number of American dead in this crash is likely revive calls to speed the withdrawal of US forces, it’s not likely to become a major turning point in public opinion.
In Iraq, a helicopter crash in 2005 also killed 31 US troops. Historical polling data collated on pollingreport.com suggest that support for the war declined no more than a percentage point in the immediate aftermath of that incident.