Indeed, in a military that has been fighting this war for a decade, the news was met with shock on military installations across the world. At U.S. Special Operations Command, for example, where officials plan to welcome a new commander, the ceremony is being revamped to a more intimate tone in light of Saturdays loss.
The work of Navy SEALs in Afghanistan is the nexus of the U.S. effort to win the battle over terrorist groups. Perhaps as a reflection of that, in 2008, then-President George W. Bush awarded a Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael Murphy, a Medal of Honor posthumously. He was the first Medal of Honor recipient from the war in Afghanistan.
The crash renewed questions about U.S. claims that the security in Afghanistan is gradually improving, in part because the Taliban is allegedly weaker.
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack in a statement.
"Last night at 11 p.m. in the Joye Zarin area of Tangi Saybabad district, the invader forces conducted a night raid and faced hard resistance from the Islamic Emirate fighters, according to the statement, attributed to Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, and posted on the group's website.
Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman for the provincial governor, largely confirmed the Taliban statement, saying the crash had taken place after an operation by the International Security Assistance Force, as the U.S.-led coalition is known, killed eight insurgents. After the operation the ISAF helicopter crashed and there are casualties," Shahid said. "The area has been surrounded by U.S.-led NATO forces."
The site was in Maidan Wardak is a volatile province located about 25 miles west of Kabul. It shares a border with Logar, another insecure province.
The Afghan defense ministry confirmed the death of seven Afghan commandos in the crash. Gen. Zahir Azimy, the Afghan army spokesman, placed the crash in Logar province, however.
The crash raised questions about administration claims that the United States can leave by the end of 2014 without fears of the Taliban retaking control of the country. Often the U.S. military has noted that the Taliban is on the run from areas in the south and east they once firmly controlled because of an aggressive U.S. campaign in Taliban strongholds over the last year. But a string of successful assassinations and high-profile attacks has some asking whether losing such ground has in fact made the Taliban.
Since April, the Taliban has claimed to assassinate Kandahars police chief and mayor and Ahmed Wali Karzai, the presidents brother and chief power broker in Kandahar. In addition, the Taliban claimed last month to killed a top presidential aide.
In June, insurgents attacked the seemingly secure Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing 18 and rattling residents in Kabul about their security.
As recently as Thursday, top military officials said that they expect the Taliban to continue targeted attacks in response to their lost ground. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Thursday that the Taliban is moving to spectacular assassinations but we're working hard to protect certainly our forces and also provide enhanced security for the...senior Afghan officials which are targeted here."