A decorated retired Air Force officer who witnessed one of the most deadly attacks on Navy SEALs in U.S. history is finally breaking her silence.
Retired Air Force Capt. Joni Marquez, who served aboard an AC-130 “Spectre” gunship on the fateful day says that Obama covered up evidence detailing that the 2011 downing of a Chinook helicopter gunship that killed 38 fighters in Afghanistan.
She says that the tragedy could have been prevented had it not been for restrictions to the military’s rules of engagement that were changed under the Obama administration.
Sara A. Carter at Circa.com reports that Marquez and her crew were working the dark morning hours aboard an AC-130 gunship after being summoned to a mission she describes “as almost like a 9-1-1 type of a situation.”
The gunship was ordered to fly close-in air support above Afghanistan’s dangerous Tangi Valley, in Wardak Province, assisting troops with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment who were being fired on by eight heavily armed Taliban insurgents.
The Rangers called in for assault helicopters to engage the enemy. The forces fired on the Taliban fighters, but not all of the enemy insurgents were killed.
“I had the sensor operators immediately shift to the eight insurgents the helicopters had taken out,” Marquez explained to Circa, in her first interview about the incident. “Two were still alive.”
Marquez was the fire control officer aboard the AC-130 gunship, making sure that the sensors and weapons were aligned and allowing the crew hone in on targets.
That night it didn’t matter, because the gunship was not given permission to fire. “We had seen two of them (insurgents) moving, crawling away from the area, as to not really make a whole lot of scene,” she recalled.
Monitoring the scene from above, she relayed the scene to the ground force commander. “You have two enemy forces that are still alive,” she said. “Permission to engage.”
They were denied.
Marquez told Circa the ground commander’s decision to not allow her crew to engage the two enemy fighters sealed the fate of those involved in Extortion 17.
There was little left to do for Marquez and her team but simply track the two enemy insurgents with the surveillance equipment. She watched as the two moved tactically through the open field, making their way to a village where they began to rally more fighters.
Meanwhile, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, was called into the hours-long firefight.
U.S. Central Command’s official investigation concluded that a rocket-launched grenade from a Taliban fighter hit the Chinook and sent the helicopter into a downward spin. The crash killed all 38, including thirty Americans and eight Afghans. Seventeen of the U.S. servicemen were Navy SEALs. Months before, SEALs were made famous for the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“If we would’ve been allowed to engage that night, we would’ve taken out those two men immediately.”
—Retired Air Force Captain Joni Marquez
‘Dying on the ground’
One of the SEALs was ejected from the burning Chinook helicopter and Marquez watched from her infrared monitor as his heat signature faded from red to blue as life was slipping from his body.
“We had to sit and watch that, and I think that was one of the hardest things that I had to do,” she said. “That man was, you know, dying on the ground.” Marquez says the pain of living with what happened has taken its toll and she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is in therapy.
Her account is corroborated by a previously top-secret report by the Defense Department inspector general that includes interviews with some of Marquez’s colleagues on the gunship, including the commander.
“If we would’ve been allowed to engage that night, we would’ve taken out those two men immediately. I mean, it’s just one of those things where you know that it could’ve all been prevented,” she said, tearing up at times as she recollected that night.
Why was the American gunship told to stand down while the threat escaped? Marquez points squarely to the rules of engagement that were put in place under Barack Obama.
“Ridiculous rules of engagement that basically state that you can’t shoot until being shot upon,” Marquez said. “A weapon has to be pointed, and essentially fired at you, in order for you to shoot and you have the proper clearance so that you don’t, you know, go to jail, that you’re charged with a war crime.”
Those restrictive rules of engagement applied even for known combatants, such as the Taliban fighters, which were permitted to rally more forces from the Afghan village.
Here’s some of the unclassified rules of engagement for Afghanistan
- No night or surprise searches
- Villagers warned prior to searches
- U.S. units on searches
- U.S. soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first
- Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police must accompany
- U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present
- Troops can fire at an insurgent if they catch them placing an IED, but not if they’re walking away from placing an IED.
- Only engage an enemy fighter if you see a weapon, and they’ve fired first
That’s all Obama. Unbelievable.
“I won’t rest until some kind of justice is served, in a manner of either, you know, the people that were responsible for that night, for making those calls, come forward and are honest about it,” Marquez said.
She concluded, “I know that’s kind of a lofty goal but, if that’s something that doesn’t happen, then obviously the [rules of engagement] to change, for them to be realistic.”
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