WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that the United States will press on and finally succeed in its Afghan mission despite the tragic loss of 30 American service members in a helicopter crash Saturday."Their loss is a stark reminder of the risks that our men and women in uniform take every single day on behalf of their country, " Obama said in a statement delivered at the White House.
"I know that our troops will continue the hard work of transitioning to a stronger Afghan government and ensuring that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for terrorists," he said. "We will press on and we will succeed."
The CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed Saturday in eastern Afghanistan's Wardak province, leaving 38 people dead including 30 soldiers of the U.S. Special Force, one local interpreter and seven Afghan commandos. It was the largest single-day losses of American forces in the decade-long Afghan war.
While the Pentagon said it is continuing the investigation of the incident and no conclusion has been drawn yet, NATO on Monday gave a more detailed account of the crash.
"(The Chinook helicopter) was reportedly fired on by an insurgent rocket-propelled grenade while transporting the U.S. service members and commandos to the scene of an on-going engagement between ISAF and insurgent forces," the coalition said in a statement. But it did not confirm the helicopter was shot down by Taliban, as some earlier reports indicated.
The incident occurred at a crucial time for the U.S. Afghan mission as American forces began to pull out of the country last month, with an ultimate goal of transferring lead security responsibility to the Afghan forces by 2014.
Analysts said the incident could spur even stronger anti-war sentiment among the American public as people are questioning whether the war is worth such a high cost of life and money.