Nightly News   |  December 17, 2013

Blackhawk crash kills 6 Americans in Afghanistan

There were two U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters flying in tandem over southern Afghanistan on Tuesday when -- without warning -- one dropped from the sky. Six Americans died in what became the single deadliest incident for American forces in Afghanistan in more than a year. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. tonight six american families are in the process of receiving the worst possible news. eight days before christmas they are learning they have lost a loved one overseas. it was a black hawk helicopter carrying u.s. soldiers . it went down in afghanistan . a fight ensued. tonight six americans are dead. there was one survivor. the pentagon has yet in fill in some of the blanks beyond the shock. initial news. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski is in afghanistan for us tonight. jim, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. this was the single deadliest incident for american forces in afghanistan in more than a year, but there's a lot of confusion here tonight. first military reports claim that the americans came under heavy enemy fire , but later reports indicated there may have been no enemy contact. whatever the circumstances today, six americans were killed. there were two u.s. army black hawk helicopters flying in tandem over southern afghanistan today when without warning one of the blackhawks suddenly dropped from the sky. u.s. military officials say first reports stated that the helicopter that crashed and its seven-man crew came under heavy enemy fire . the u.s. military launched a rescue team, but it was too late. six of the black hawk crew had been killed. only one survived with serious injuries. the military is still investigating to determine whether the chopper was brought down by mechanical failure or enemy fire . the incident occurred in the zabul province in southern afghanistan where taliban fighters remain a serious threat. today's fatalities bring the total number of americans killed in the 12-year war to 2,160 and expected to rise.

>> the main thing this says to us is any time we have forces operating overseas, whether they are being shot at or not, there's a certain danger.

>> reporter: there are currently some 43,000 american forces in harm's way in afghanistan . under a pending security agreement with the afghan government , that number could drop to 7,000 to 10,000 by the end of 2014 , but would commit u.s. forces to another ten years in afghanistan to train afghan military forces and keep al qaeda in check.

>> al qaeda would still love nothing more than to be able to say after 12 years of combat that they have outlasted us.

>> reporter: as the u.s. war in afghanistan begins to draw down, the military here worries that many americans think that the war is already over , but today's incident is a tragic reminder that in this, america's longest running war, american lives are very much at risk. brian?

>> jim miklaszewski starting us off from jalalabad tonight. jim, thanks.