Two bodies and the flight data recorders from the USAF E-11A plane that crashed in Ghazni, eastern Afghanistan, on January 27, 2020, were recovered. An investigation has been launched to determine if the aircraft was shot down or not.
Accessing the snow-covered crash site proved complicated in the beginning, given that it was in a Taliban-controlled area. Officers from the Ghazni police tried to access the site soon after the accident. However they were engaged by hostile forces, killing one policeman, Ghazni police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat reported.
The next day, on January 28, 2020, U.S. Forces were sent to the accident area. They successfully recovered the bodies of two occupants that were on board the crashed Northrop Grumman E-11A. “The remains were found near the crash site, treated with dignity and respect by the local Afghan community, in accordance with their culture,” said Sonny Leggett, spokesperson for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. The identity of the two occupants will be kept secret until their family and closed ones are warned.
Unlike what the Taliban claimed, the U.S. military says that there was no sign the aircraft was shot down by enemy fire. An investigation has been opened. Upon recovery of the remains and the flight data recorders, the wreckage was destroyed using explosives.
Early on January 27, 2020, news emerged that an aircraft went down in the eastern province of Ghazni, to the south-west of the capital, Kabul. The local governor’s office originally said the aircraft was “a Boeing plane belonging to the Ariana Afghan Airline”. However, the national carrier’s CEO denied it, saying all planes were accounted for. The Afghan Civil aviation authority supported the idea that no Afghan civilian aircraft crashed. Soon after, photos and footage of the aircraft crash site began emerging online, revealing that the aircraft was in fact a Northrop Grumman E-11A plane: a small aircraft based on Bombardier Global Express 6000 airframe and used as an airborne communication relay. Later that day, the USAF confirmed the plane was theirs.
The accident happened at a time when U.S. and Taliban negotiators were reportedly close to an agreement over a peaceful resolution to a war lasting for over 19 years ‒ the longest conflict in U.S. history. Since the summer of 2019, Washington has been trying to withdraw U.S. troops, asking in return that the Taliban guarantee the Afghan territory would not once again become a “safe haven” for terrorist groups. 13,000 U.S. personnel are still stationed in the country, mostly taking part in the NATO Resolute Support Mission that mentors Afghan security forces.