U.S. forces recovered the bodies of two personnel killed Monday when their E-11A aircraft crashed in eastern Afghanistan, the military said.
The personnel were killed in the crash in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan said in a Tuesday, January 28 release.
U.S. and Afghan officials had struggled to reach the plane on Monday and American overflights were reported in the area, large parts of which are under Taliban control, before bodies were recovered on Tuesday. Their identities have not been made public in accordance with U.S. policy that keeps names private until 24 hours after family notification, and it was unclear if anyone else was in the plane when it crashed.
“The remains were found near the crash site, treated with dignity and respect by the local Afghan community, in accordance with their culture,” the release said.
What “is assessed to be the aircraft flight data recorder” was also recovered, and the remnants of the burned-out aircraft were destroyed.
The Taliban has suggested it was responsible for the downed plane, but the U.S. said there was no indication it was brought down by enemy fire. USFORA spokesperson Colonel Sonny Leggett also denied Taliban claims that a second aircraft, a helicopter, had crashed later on Monday.
The Taliban aren’t believed to have the kind of anti-aircraft weapons needed to shoot down an E-11A. The plane, one of four used by US forces, is operated in Afghanistan because it can travel at high altitudes. It was is configured with Northrop Grumman’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) relay and gateway system, designed as a high-altitude airborne communications bridge.
The crash comes as data from U.S. Air Forces Central Command revealed that U.S. warplanes had dropped 7,423 bombs on Afghanistan last year – the most in one year since records began in 2006.
President Donald Trump halted talks with the Taliban last year after the death of an American soldier in Kabul, but negotiations have picked up again in recent weeks.
Earlier this month two U.S. soldiers were killed in an improvised explosive device blast while on patrol near Kandahar. Last year 20 U.S. personnel, mostly Special Forces soldiers, were killed in the country – making it the deadliest year for U.S. forces since 2014.