An Mi-17 helicopter transporting Afghan Army troops in Zabul P?rovince, Afghanistan, crashed Thursday, killing 17 soldiers, including two crew members, Afghan officials told Voice of America. The Afghan Defense Ministry said “technical fault” caused the crash during redeployment operations, not enemy fire. However, Taliban elements claimed they shot the helicopter down. In the aftermath of the US and allied drawdown and end of Operation Enduring Freedom last year, the health of the Afghan Air Force has remained a high priority for the US and NATO training and advising mission, as the mobility of Afghan forces remains a concern. US Air Force advisors operate in fewer locations in the country, but are still regularly working with Afghan counterparts to improve mobility operations, such as improving air traffic management practices. No US personnel were killed in the Aug. 6 crash.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.