Taliban fighters claim they shot down a U.S. drone this week over Afghanistan, taking to social media to publicize their feat. But is the allegation credible?
"We can confirm that we lost contact with a remotely piloted aircraft," Navy Cmdr. Ron Flesvig, spokesman for NATO Resolute Support, said in a statement to Air Force Times. "At this time, we cannot confirm the cause. The incident is under investigation, and we will provide additional information as available."
Whether it belongs to the Army or Air Force is unclear. But a photo has been shared on Twitter of a crumpled MQ-9, posted by Abdulqahar Balkhi, a Taliban-affiliated
proclaiming to be "the voice of jihad":
Unfortunately for the group, the photo has been used before, as viewers of the post pointed out.
"The remains of a Predator B 'Reaper' drone, sprinkled across the Arizona mountainside near Nogales, in this April 2006 photo released by the National Transportation Safety Board," reads the original photo's caption,
used by NBC News
for a story about drone crashes in 2013.
The Predator B 'Reaper' is a variant created by defense contractor General Atomics.
The Islamic State, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other enemies of the U.S. have often used social media to advance their agenda, posting evidence of their triumphs on Facebook or Twitter. And they have also claimed to shoot down aircraft that, in fact, crashed due to mechanical problems.
So the question remains: If the Taliban did shoot down the drone in Afghanistan, why would a Taliban-affiliated website post a 10-year old NTSB photo of a crashed drone in Arizona?
If the group could even achieve such a feat, and if it's out there, a photo of the actual missing drone hasn't yet surfaced. And the Taliban's claim remains unsupported.
Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East and Europe for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at email@example.com.