Extortion 17: A Scandal Worse than Benghazi?

Parents, children, spouses, and relatives send their loved ones off into the US military service with a trust that their beloved will have leaders, both military and civilian, who will sacrifice all to protect those in their charge. Our warriors go into battle believing they must fight only the enemy to their front, not one to their rear.

And so it is as military strategist Carl von Clausewitz termed, the “paradoxical trinity” necessary for a nation to prosecute a war successfully. It involves the combined positive will of the government, the military, and the people. Clausewitz suggested this trifecta would ensure a nation would be focused and resolute in achieving the goal of victory.

For America, the last time we saw this paradoxical trinity come together was World War II. There is no debate that in each level — government, military, and the people — there was unity of effort.

Wars have three objectives: annihilation, assimilation, or attrition and victory. Combat strategy must be aligned with one of those three objectives. However, since World War II, politics have played a larger part in the prosecution of combat operations. The result is nebulous objectives, often limited in scope and design, and when in combat, objectives are unclear and limited, there are always residual effects.

What Clausewitz did not foresee was a new addition to his trinity, the fifth estate — the media. The media have become a key player in the prosecution of combat operations. They seemingly decide what they wish to advocate and what they wish to hide. They are determining the “news” that they believe the people should hear as it promotes their own ideological and political agenda.

And so it is on this the 21st century battlefield where non-state, non-uniform belligerents dominate. The most chilling line from the movie “Lone Survivor” came when the US Navy SEAL Recon team was discussing its options after the Afghan goat herders had compromised the mission. One of the team members mentioned CNN. Imagine the media were part of the decision-making for a special operations team on deep reconnaissance regarding eliminating the threat to a compromised mission.

During the 2012 election cycle we continually heard rhetoric from President Obama saying, “Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida is decimated and on the run.” At no point did anyone in the fawning mainstream media challenge that assertion.

Today, we have evidence — clear and irrefutable evidence — that al-Qaida is hardly decimated, and if they are on the run, it is through Ramadi and Fallujah.

Just this past week, the day after President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he can’t say the threat from the terror network “is any less” than it was a decade ago.

Just as a tree falling in the woods makes no sound if no one’s there, the liberal progressive media did not want the truth to make a sound.

Yes, Osama bin Laden is indeed dead, eliminated in May of 2011. The media made darn sure we knew about that. And the Obama administration did everything possible — even sharing classified information with Hollywood and others to tout their story.

But just three months later on August 5th 2011, there was an incident that President Obama, and the media do not want the American people to know about. It is the story of the largest single loss of life in the Afghanistan combat theater of operations. As well, it is the largest ever loss of life for the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community, our revered US Navy SEALS.

It was the mission known as “Extortion 17.” The mission began with US Army Rangers inserted into the Tangi River valley in Wardak Province to eliminate Taliban leader Qari Tahir. Overhead there were two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and an AC-130 gunship as part of the Aerial Weapons Team (AWT). When the AWT noticed two individuals fleeing the target area and determined they were armed, they requested permission to engage, but it was denied.

The two individuals were seen linking up with another six but permission to engage was still denied. The decision was made to launch the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) aboard a singular CH-47D Chinook aircraft. Aboard were 16 members of  SEAL Team VI (as previously publicly identified by Vice President Biden, SEAL Team support personnel, US Air Force special operators, an Afghan interpreter and seven Afghan commandos. Strangely, the Afghan Commandos who were part of the QRF and listed on the manifest were removed and replaced by Afghan soldiers who were not manifested.

The operation in the target area of operations had been ongoing for over three hours. There was no attack helicopter escort for the CH-47D. There were no eyes on the “hot” helicopter landing zone (HLZ) – near where the eight enemy combatants had repositioned, and no pre-assault fires were granted for the HLZ.

As the CH-47D, call sign Extortion 17, approached the HLZ, the AWT saw three flashes. It was three rocket propelled grenade shots. One struck the rear tail rotor and in 5 seconds the aircraft broke into three pieces and crashed in a dry creek bed in a ball of flames.

One of the AWT gunship helicopters saw the point of origin of the shots and requested permission to engage. But it was again denied. They reported seeing the individuals leaving a fixed defensive fighting position above a building — a tower actually — handing down equipment.

In total, 22 brave American Warriors and one combat-trained dog lost their lives. When family members received a brief on the operation a question was asked, “why not use a drone?” A senior US Navy Admiral replied, “we want to win the hearts and minds.”

I was a Member of Congress on the House Armed Services Committee when I received the classified after-action report. There are more questions than answers. That led Billy and Karen Vaughn, parents of their fallen son Aaron, to dig deeper and write a book, “Betrayed, The Shocking True Story of Extortion 17 as told by a Navy SEALs Father.”

Before Benghazi, there was the betrayal of Extortion 17. Who will get the truth for these warriors and their families? President Obama, Secretary of Defense, Congress, US Navy? The media? The only part of Clausewitz’s trinity left to uncover the truth is We The People.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.

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