Insurgent attacks have killed nine NATO service members in the past two days in Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led coalition is mourning the deaths of 30 American troops and eight Afghans in a helicopter crash last week, military officials said Friday.
The Aug. 6 crash was the single deadliest loss for U.S. forces in the nearly decade-long war.
The crash victims' remains were flown to a mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The Pentagon said Friday that the military's medical examiner's office had positively identified all 30 U.S. troops and two of the eight Afghans, as well as the U.S. military dog that died in the crash. Identification work continues on the other six Afghans, the Pentagon said.
The identification team comprised 10 forensic pathologists, two forensic anthropologists, six odontologists (forensic dentists) and dentists, three FBI fingerprint experts, three forensic investigators, two tissue technicians and a three-person DNA team. To make the identifications, medical examiners used forensic techniques, including fingerprints, dental examination, radiology and DNA matching — techniques that were not available in Afghanistan.
The coalition has said that the chopper was apparently shot down in Wardak province by a rocket-propelled grenade, but is investigating whether other causes contributed to the crash. The victims were: 17 members of the elite Navy SEALs, five Naval Special Warfare personnel who support the SEALs, three Air Force Special Operations personnel, an Army helicopter crew of five, seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter.
The crash comes amid fears that the country is far from stable even though U.S. and NATO forces have begun to leave Afghanistan. U.S. military officials have tried to counter those fears, saying that while the downing of the Chinook helicopter was a tragic setback, one crash will not determine the course of the war. Still, it was a psychological victory for the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the crash and is relentlessly pursuing its campaign of intimidation and violence.
Eight of the nine NATO service members who died on Thursday and Friday were killed by roadside bombs, the insurgents' weapon of choice.
Two died Friday in separate blasts in the south, the coalition said. Their nationalities have not been disclosed.
On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. troops in the south, American military officials said.
Also on Thursday, a roadside blast killed a French soldier 4 miles south of Tagab in Kapisa province in the east, the French Defense Ministry said in a statement. Four other French soldiers were wounded in the attack.
Another NATO service member died Thursday in an insurgent attack in the south, according to the U.S.-led coalition.
NATO did not disclose any further information about the deaths.
So far this year, 378 American and other NATO service members have died in the war in Afghanistan.
Medal of Honor
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration for valor, to a former active duty Marine Corps corporal, the White House said on Friday.
Dakota Meyer will be the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the first Marine.
Meyer will get the award for courageous actions while serving as a member of a Marine embedded training team in Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009, the White House statement said.