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Mark Figley: 'Extortion 17' incident cries out for inquiry


August 23. 2013 11:24PM
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It was May 2, 2011 and media reports were streaming the news: Osama bin Laden was dead, killed in a daring raid by U.S. Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Joyous crowds filled America’s streets, chanting “U.S.A.” and waving American flags. Patriotism was on display. Navy Seal Team 6 had achieved the unthinkable!


Then came the horrific news of Aug. 6, 2011: 17 Navy Seals from Team 6, five Naval Special Warfare personnel, three Air Force Special Operations personnel and an Army helicopter crew of five were killed after their CH47-D Chinook helicopter was shot down by a Taliban RPG in Afghanistan. Seven Afghan military personnel were also dead. None of the Americans killed were part of the bin Laden raid, yet the incident marked the deadliest single day for U.S. forces in the Afghanistan conflict.


The mission, identified as “Extortion 17,” was a rescue/support operation to assist and extricate 47 Army Rangers from a hostile valley where they had been engaged in a 3 1/2 hour battle with the Taliban. Reportedly, American forces had cleared this area on seven previous occasions only to turn it over to Afghan forces who repeatedly lost it to the enemy. Further, even before the mission, U.S. intelligence had knowledge that the Taliban was intent on ambushing and destroying an American helicopter.


In the days following the shoot-down, many began to question various aspects of the mission. It was said that Islamic extremists were determined to avenge the death of bin Laden by targeting our special forces. Families of the victims requesting information on the deaths of their sons were stonewalled by congressmen and the Obama administration. Then things took a darker turn.


At a 2011 memorial ceremony honoring the fallen Americans and Afghan victims, U.S. military brass determined that “any mention of a Judeo-Christian God” would be prohibited, yet a Muslim cleric could pray over the caskets of the dead Americans. After the Imam’s remarks were translated, it was alleged that he “desecrated and damned the Americans as infidels to Allah.” This final act energized the military families as nothing else could.


On May 9, 2013, three families of Navy Seal Team 6 victims and the family of an Army National Guardsman held a press conference to reveal previously unreleased information about the fatal day of the crash. They were accompanied by former military leaders.


Retired Major General Paul Vallely called the crash “a lost story,” noting it’s similarity to the Benghazi debacle with its “constant plethora of lies and deceit.” The father of Seal victim Michael Strange spoke of President Obama’s failed assurance that the incident would be thoroughly investigated.


Among the questions: Why did VP Biden specifically identify Seal Team 6 as the unit that killed bin Laden, making them an easily identifiable target? Why was the “Extortion 17” mission flown in a 1960’s chopper, last upgraded in 1989? Why were so many elite personnel placed in one helicopter? Why did American commanders switch out Afghan forces for the mission at the last minute with replacements who may have compromised the mission? Who was the commander who authorized the switch? Retired Admiral James Lyon even questioned why a “helicopter meant to transport troops and people was used to conduct special operations” and called the event “pure dereliction of duty.”


Mother Karen Vaughn noted that the helicopter had no escort despite the hostile fighting. The limiting nature of U.S. rules of engagement with the enemy was also criticized, as was the decision to allow the cleric’s prayer in a “final act of betrayal” by the victims’ own government. So where are the answers?


Although the families intend to pursue legal action and a full congressional investigation, these acts won’t bring back their brave warriors. For too long, U.S. foreign policy has compromised our national security in favor of political correctness and Islamic “outreach.” In the same vein, President Obama long ago determined that the term “War on Terror” be eliminated from any national security discussion. With such talk from our “commander-in-chief,” it should surprise no one that as our rules of engagement have become more prohibitive, our ability to win wars has become more difficult. Fact: America’s last clear-cut victory in a sustained military conflict occurred with WW II.


Despite the ever-growing list of scandals facing the Obama administration ie. the NSA spy program, Benghazi terrorist attack, IRS targeting of conservative groups and the Associated Press email eavesdropping caper, the “Extortion 17” incident is one that cries out for congressional inquiry as well. Welcome to the wonderful legacy of Barack Obama!




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