Pentagon confirms its military jet crashed in Afghanistan
GHAZNI (AFP) – A US military jet crashed in mountainous territory in eastern Afghanistan, where there is a heavy Taliban presence, the Pentagon confirmed, rejecting the insurgents´ suggestions that it was shot down.
Afghanistan US Forces spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett confirmed in a statement that the aircraft was a US Bombardier E-11A, a type of jet used as a military airborne communications node in the region.
“While the cause of crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire,” Leggett said. Leggett gave no information on casualties in the crash.
Earlier, a Taliban spokesman said the plane had crashed and there were no survivors, but another version of the statement from the insurgents said they had brought the plane down.
“An aircraft of American occupiers has crashed in Ghazni province,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a Pashto-language statement, adding that all crew members onboard had been killed.
Large swathes of rural areas in Ghazni province are controlled or under the influence of Taliban militants, making access difficult for officials.
– Crash video –
Footage published by a Taliban-affiliated account showed people speaking Pashto walking around a crashed plane that resembled an E-11A and appeared to have US military markings.
The plane’s fuselage lay in a snow-covered field fractured and heavily burnt, with smoke continuing to billow from it.
Crashes involving military flights, particularly helicopters, are common in Afghanistan where inclement weather and creaky aircraft are often pressed to their limits in the war-torn country.
Initial reports said the downed aircraft was a plane from state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines. But the company and Afghanistan´s civil aviation authority both denied that the plane was a commercial flight.
“All the flights of Ariana Afghan Airlines have been completed normally,” said a statement on the carrier´s Facebook page.
Aviation authorities said “no commercial airline crash has been recorded. And Ariana Afghan Airlines have reassured us that all their planes are accounted for.”
– Taliban talks –
The incident comes as Washington and the Taliban continue to wrangle over a possible agreement that would see US troops begin to leave Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.
The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing a deal, their chief spokesman said earlier this month.
The two sides had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead”, citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted in December in Qatar, but paused again following an attack near the US-run Bagram military base in Afghanistan.
Taliban sources told AFP earlier this month they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire of seven to 10 days, but there was no announcement of the proposal by either party.