Afghan military helicopter destroyed in Taliban IED attack

The Taliban published a dramatic video touting the destruction of an Afghan military helicopter just seconds after it landed on a remote outpost in a mountainous area of Afghanistan. The Taliban has infiltrated Afghan military outposts in the past and conducted similar attacks.

The video, which was posted by a Taliban supporter in mid-May, is narrated by Taliban fighters who recorded the attack. It is unclear when or where the attack took place.

The helicopter, which appeared to be a Mi-8 Hip transport, was recorded as it approached the mountaintop base and lands. Just seconds after landing, the helicopter was destroyed in a massive blast that toppled the aircraft and propelled
parts of the rotor into the air. The Taliban fighters recording the video screamed “Allahu Akbar,” or God is greatest, as the aircraft disintegrated. The number of casualties incurred by the Afghan crew and anyone nearby on the ground remains unknown. The Afghan military has yet to comment on the attack. There is little chance anyone onboard survived the blast.

The blast was likely caused by a bomb that was placed underneath the aircraft, as the explosion appeared to originate from under the helicopter. The placement of the IED indicated that Taliban fighters either penetrated the base and planted the bomb, or turned one or more soldiers stationed there to deploy the IED. Additionally, the bomb appeared to have been detonated remotely, as the helicopter did not explode on contact with the ground. The Taliban team that detonated the bomb as well as the team that recorded it (radio chatter was heard in the background, indicating more than one Taliban team was in the area) was close to the base, making it likely that base perimeter security was poor.

The Taliban executed a similar attack in April 2016 at a mountaintop in Kunar and also published a video of the bombing. In that video, Afghan soldiers were seen approaching the helicopter, another MI-8 Hip, as it landed, and were engulfed in the blast. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban destroys Afghan army helicopter in IED attack at military base.]

The loss of helicopters strains the Afghan military, which has increasingly been relying on air assets to resupply remote and besieged bases, as well as to target the Taliban and the Islamic State in air strikes.

The Taliban has issued statements claiming it has shot down 10 helicopters since the beginning of Sept. 2016. Not all of those claims can be confirmed independently. While the exact number of helicopters in the Afghan Air Force is not clear – it is estimated that more than 80 are in service, with more on order – if the Taliban’s claims are accurate, it would have taken out one-eighth of the Afghan military’s serviceable helicopters in the past nine months.

The Afghan military has often denied that the Taliban has shot down its helicopters, instead citing “technical faults” or other issues. This was the case in the April 2016 bombing of the helicopter in Kunar. The Taliban video disproved the Afghan military’s statement.

Images from the Taliban video of the bombing of the Mi-8 helicopter:

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


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