A Statement, But No Public Comment from Obama, on U.S. Troop Tragedy in Afghanistan

By Susan Jones | August 8, 2011 | 5:56 AM EDT

A Marine carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. Daniel J. Patron Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Patron, of Canton, Ohio, died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama issued a statement, but has not yet spoken publicly, about the tragic deaths of 30 American troops, including 22 SEALs, in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

The president did not speak to reporters when he returned to the White House Sunday from his birthday weekend at Camp David.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan," Obama said in a statement posted on the White House Web site on Saturday.

"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan. We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied."

Obama said the U.S. also mourns the eight Afghans (seven commandos and a civilian translator) who were killed in the crash.

"At this difficult hour, all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security," Obama's statement concluded.

As of Monday, NATO was still in the process of recovering wreckage from the Chinook helicopter.

German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, told reporters at a briefing on Monday that the coalition still has not determined the exact cause of the crash, which happened in the Tangi Joy Zarin area of Wardak province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul.

Unnamed U.S. officials have said that insurgents apparently shot down the Chinook Saturday as it was attempting to reinforce Army Rangers who had come under fire.

All but two of the 22 SEALs were from SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden, officials told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. AP also reported that none of the men killed on Saturday took part in the bin Laden raid.

The White House said President Barack Obama called NATO commanders on Sunday to express his condolences for those who died. In the calls, the president reaffirmed the support of the American people for U.S. troops and their families, AP reported.

Obama called the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, and the commander of Joint Special Operations Command, Army Lt. Gen. Joe Votel. He also spoke with the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, Navy Adm. Eric Olson, and the head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James Mattis.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also issued a statement on Saturday:

“On this darkest day of a dark conflict, our nation mourns the tragic loss of these courageous Americans, who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. We grieve with the families of all of the fallen, and pray they may find peace. And we honor their sacrifice, by rededicating ourselves to the task of securing the nation for which they and so many others have fought and died.  God rest their souls.”

As CNSNews.com reported last week, at least 64 percent of U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan have happened on Obama’s watch.

As of Aug. 1, according to CNSNew.com’s database, 1,019 U.S. troops had died in and around Afghanistan since President Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. With Saturday’s tragic loss, that number now jumps by 30, to at least 1,049.

In December 2009, President Obama announced that he was increasing the U.S. presence in Afghanistan by 30,000 troops. Currently, the U.S. has a force of 100,000 in the country.

The president announced on June 22 that 10,000 troops would be out by the end of this year and another 23,000 by September 2012. That will leave behind about 60,000 U.S. troops, which is still double the number of troops in that country under President George W. Bush.

(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)

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