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Pentagon Says No Link Found In Iraq Helicopter Crashes

A pigeon flies in the skies of Baghdad, 07 February 2007. The US military said yesterday it was probing reports of another helicopter crash near Baghdad. The crash, if confirmed, would be the fifth by a US helicopter in Iraq in less than three weeks. The US military recently revealed that four US helicopters which crashed in the past two weeks killing a total of 20 troops and private security guards had been shot down by insurgents. The military is changing its tactics to avoid more attacks. Photo courtesy AFP.

Former US commander in Iraq backed as US Army chief
Washington (AFP) Feb 08 - US Senators on Thursday approved the nomination of General George C. Casey as the new US Army chief of staff even as he came under fire for the chaos in Iraq. Casey, who has been replaced by Lieutenant General David Petraeus as the commander of US forces in Iraq, was overwhelmingly approved for his new post, even though several influential Republican senators voted against him for failing to stem the violence in Iraq.

"Do I hold others in the administration responsible? Absolutely," said Republican John McCain. "But this is a leader who is up for an increased responsibility and he has failed in his mission, and that it is what this is all about." "To somehow say the commander in the field in some way is not responsible in any way for the 'mistakes' I think flies in the face ... of the tradition we have in the United States of America, of placing the commanders in the field in positions of responsibility and making them accountable for their performance."

Casey's nomination was approved by an overwhelming 83 to 14 votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate, with presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton voting against and her rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Barack Obama, voting for. Democratic Senator Jack Reed said he was voting for Casey because: "I think he should be criticized for shortcomings that he admits readily, but he should not be condemned because he was carrying out a strategy and a policy that was seriously flawed when he arrived on the ground in Iraq. "He has done his best to do the job he was given."

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2007
The US military has not established a link connecting five US helicopter crashes in Iraq over the past three weeks, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday. "Clearly, each time we have an aircraft go down, we take a look at it, and given the proximity of these events happening together, we'll have people looking at them not only as individual events but collectively, as to whether or not there is any correlation," spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

Asked whether the frequency of the crashes meant that insurgents were better armed, Whitman said: "I don't think I can make any sort of conclusion like that at this point."

On Wednesday, the US military said seven crew members and passengers died when a US Marine helicopter crashed in Al-Anbar province, a Sunni Arab insurgent bastion west of Baghdad, earlier in the day.

Officials are investigating what caused the crash. Whitman said they have not yet indicated whether the cause was "mechanical, human (or) hostile."

The crash brings to five the number of US helicopters that have crashed in Iraq in less than three weeks.

On Sunday, the US military revealed that four US helicopters that had crashed since January 20, killing a total of 20 troops and private security guards, had been shot down by insurgents.

Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, did not confirm US media reports that a sixth helicopter, belonging to a private security firm, had crashed on January 31.

Anthony Cordesman, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, said the series of helicopter crashes did not seem to signal a pattern but was "a warning" about what the US military could face in the coming months.

"The insurgents may have found a new, high-profile way to attack the US at a time they are fighting a political and perceptual battle against the US," Cordesman said in a statement.

According to him, the recent helicopter losses must be viewed in perspective. An estimate by the Brookings Institution found that the US had lost fewer than 60 helicopters since the war began in March 2003 although thousands of flights are made each month in Iraq, he noted.

"These losses also compare with some 5,000 helicopters lost in Vietnam, about two-fifths of which were combat losses," the CSIS expert said.

Cordesman said the insurgents do not need new weapons to bring down helicopters. They can use "virtually any automatic weapon, manportable surface-to-air missiles and even RPGs (rocket-propelled grenade launchers)."

"In any case, the insurgent effort is limited and no new weapons are needed," he said.

"Insurgents can simply wait anywhere in the normal flight area until a helicopter becomes easy to attack."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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