The Pentagon on Monday confirmed a US military jet crashed in the mountainous territory of eastern Afghanistan province Ghazni, where there is a heavy Taliban presence, 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 the 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 statement, adding that all crew members on board 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.
“The plane, which was on an intelligence mission, was brought down in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province,” said Mujahid in a statement. Mujahid did not say how the fighters had brought the plane down, which is used to provide communication capabilities in remote locations.
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.
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 Doha, but paused again following an attack near the US-run Bagram military base in Afghanistan. The negotiations between the US and Taliban have been on and off for quite some time due to the Taliban’s continuous attacks on US troops in Afghanistan.