Military investigating shooting in newly leaked Afghan combat video
U.S. commanders have launched an investigation into video footage that appears to show an American service member firing into the cab of a civilian truck as the two vehicles pass on a road in Afghanistan, an action that could have violated the military’s rules of engagement and may hamper the alliance with the Afghan government.
The shooting briefly appears during a gritty montage of combat footage allegedly recorded by U.S. troops battling the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate. An anonymous user recently uploaded the video to YouTube under the title “Happy Few Ordnance Symphony,” then quickly removed it.
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“The amateur video posted on a public website gives us serious concern,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told POLITICO in a statement. “The video in question is not official, not authorized and does not represent the professionalism of the service members of U.S. Central Command.
“We are conducting an investigation into this video, and will take appropriate actions as a result of this investigation,” he added.
POLITICO could not independently confirm the authenticity of the video.
The 3-minute, 9-second video doesn’t say where it was recorded, but the YouTube caption suggested it was shot in 2017. In the past year, U.S. troops have been engaged in intense combat with the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province, the group’s main Afghan stronghold, where teams of special operations advisers are fighting alongside elite Afghan troops to wrest key districts from the militants.
The troops in the video wear uniforms typical of U.S. special operations forces like the Green Berets, SEALs, Rangers and Marine Raiders, and are seen firing machine guns, grenade launchers, rockets, miniguns, mortars and calling in air or artillery strikes. The video, which is also set to music, is typical of the unauthorized combat montages that some troops create to share among themselves, often using footage shot from helmet-mounted video cameras.
But in addition to the rare glimpse of such shadowy operations up close, the brief scene of the truck shooting, 20 seconds in, sets it apart.
The clip in question shows a military vehicle approaching a truck with a white cab and black cargo cabin, of the type Afghans often call “Jingle trucks.” Military sources identified the first vehicle to POLITICO as a version of the M-ATV armored vehicle specially outfitted for special operations forces.
The clip is filmed from the perspective of an individual armed with a shotgun who is standing in a rear hatch of the armored vehicle.
As the armored vehicle comes alongside the truck, the individual lowers his military-style shotgun and appears to fire into the truck’s driver-side window, causing the glass to shatter.
The armored vehicle appears to continue on its way. It is not clear from the footage whether the driver was harmed. No recoil indicating the firing of the shotgun is clearly visible in the footage, nor is a shell or casing seen exiting the weapon.
Special operations veterans with experience in eastern Afghanistan, who reviewed the video at POLITICO’s request and agreed those depicted looked like special operations forces, said shooting a shotgun into the driver’s door of the passing truck raised potential red flags — possibly showing “an operator not doing the right thing.”
But they were also cautious about drawing any firm conclusions without far more context. It was not possible to tell which unit the shooter was from, or anything else about why the event took place. In particular, they could not tell from the footage whether the shotgun shell was a “lethal” round or a less dangerous “non-lethal” one, such as one designed for breaching doors or windows.