A House of Representatives committee heard testimony on Thursday regarding a military special operations mission in 2011, code named "Extortion 17" by the personnel involved in the classified operation during the continuing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, that ended in heartbreaking tragedy for family members of the heroes killed.
The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee members dubbed the long-anticipated hearing "Afghanistan: Honoring the Heroes of Extortion 17." The list of officials called to give testimony about the tragic event included Gary Reid, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Warfare; Col. John Devillier, the commanding officer of Air Force Mortuary Affairs at the Pentagon; Cmdr. Aaron Brodsky, director Navy Casualty Services; and other military and civilian Defense Department officials.
According to the Navy Seals, the incident entailed a military helicopter, the CH-47 Chinook being shot down when it was transporting an emergency response team to assist Army Rangers who were under a heavy-fire attack. The Chinook helicopter carried 38 troops including members of the much-honored Navy Seal Team 6, as well as eight Afghan soldiers.
As the Chinook closed in on the location of the surrounded Army Rangers, a hand-held surface-to-air missile blew the helicopter and its occupants out of the sky leaving no one left alive. The crash killed all 38 people on board including 25 American special operations personnel, five U.S. National Guard and Army Reserve crewmen, and eight Afghan soldiers. Even a U.S. military K9 died in the explosion and crash.
"It is considered the worst loss of U.S Military life in a single incident in the Afghanistan campaign, surpassing Operation Red Wings in 2005 (Note: during Operation Red Wings, on 28 June 2005, a Chinook helicopter carrying a U.S. Navy SEAL team was shot down by a RPG round as it attempted to extract U.S. troops on the ground)," claimed veteran columnist George Will.
One development that angered family members of those killed during Extortion 17 was the decision to not have them make statements to the House panel, but instead allow them to write statements about the impact of Extortion 17 on their lives.
"Given the extremely diverse expectations between families, we have tried our best to treat all interests equally. After much consideration, it was determined that the only way to ensure that each family's personal equities and unique interests were addressed fairly was to have a set standard regarding the input of all families, regardless of their point of view or their ability to attend the hearing in person," stated Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
Besides being denied the opportunity to make public statements, family members claimed nothing said during the hearing contradicted their strong suspicions that the Taliban terrorists were tipped off that SEAL Team 6 members were in the Chinook. They also claimed that Seal Tea, members were targeted as revenge for killing terrorist icon Osama bin Laden, whom the Seals located and killed only months before the Extortion 17 mission.
Some of the dead Seals' family members are angry with Vice President Joe Biden for his public boasts about Seal Team 6 killing bin Laden. They believe he and President Barack Obama kicked security to the roadside in order to score political points for Obama's reelection campaign.
Some of the questions still need to be answered by the Obama administration and the Pentagon, according to former Justice Department attorney and public-interest lawyer Larry Klayman.
Klayman said that some questions that still must be addressed are:
"Why the "black box" of the helicopter was never found because of an alleged flash flood?
"Why seven Afghan commandoes were substituted out within thirty minutes of the take-off and why the seven Afghans' identities who replaced the original Afghans are undisclosed?
"Whether the Afghan commandoes onboard compromised the crew of Extortion 17 as part of yet another example of Taliban infiltration and a green-on-blue attack?
"Whether the Afghan President Karzai "sold" the coordinates of Extortion 17 to the Taliban to get something in exchange?"