A fine line separates triumph and tragedy for the US Navy Seals.
The same special forces unit that carried out the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May is reported to have been on the helicopter that crashed in Afghanistan on Saturday, killing 38 military personnel.
Much remains unclear about how the helicopter came down. And the US military says that those Seals who were killed were not the same personnel who took part in the Bin Laden operation. But the increasingly active role of special forces in Afghanistan does highlight something troubling about the manner in which this war is being waged. The kind of snatch/kill operation that eliminated Bin Laden is not suited to the guerrilla conflict in Afghanistan. This is a home-grown Afghan insurgency, not one fomented by foreign masterminds.
Some sort of negotiated settlement with the Taliban is likely to be the only way that Nato can extricate itself from this decade-long entanglement. Yet the increasing use of special forces indicates that some in the US military command structure still believe they can prevail by cutting off the head of the snake.