AC: "...it can easily get worse before it gets better."
ANDERSON COOPER: Well, today, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, a U.S. helicopter crashed in Iraq. Seven people were killed.
The Marine Sea Knight CH-46 helicopter went down in Anbar Province this morning during routine operations, as they were called. Everyone on board was killed.
The umbrella insurgent group Islamic State in Iraq, which includes al Qaeda in Iraq, has claimed responsibility. Through postings on Islamic Web sites, the insurgents claim they shot the chopper down while hundreds of people watched and praised God. That's what they said on their propaganda site.
The official cause of the crash still under investigation, says the U.S. military. But officials say there was enemy activity in the area when the chopper crashed.
After today's incident and four other shoot-downs in recent weeks, the military is trying to figure out if there is a new enemy threat against our helicopters.
Joining us now for some perspective, CNN's Michael Ware, who is covering this story from Baghdad, and CNN military analyst Brigadier General David Grange.
Guys, thanks for being with us.
Michael, you know, military officials have long pointed out that this enemy in Iraq is a learning enemy, adjusting their tactics as we adjust ours. The U.S. military is investigating all these crashes, but do we know if the crash is the result of new enemy tactics?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's too soon to tell, Anderson.
We do know that the insurgents here, be they Shia militias, be they Sunni insurgents, or be they al Qaeda -- which are the ones who have essentially claimed the shooting down of this latest helicopter, the Islamic State of Iraq is a state within a state declared by al Qaeda -- they have long targeted air assets.
We have seen, way back from 2003, how they have tried to hit fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Now, this is the fifth helicopter that's come down in two-and-a-half weeks. That is a lot. Four of them, we know, so far, definitely result of hostile fire. We're awaiting the outcome of this one.
But does that make a pattern? We're unclear yet. Even if the same methods have been used on each of the choppers, we're eagerly awaiting to see what comes out of this investigation.
COOPER: General Grange, any loss of life is terrible and a tragedy. And any time a helicopter is down, there's often multiple loss of life.
But, given the total number of choppers flying on any given day over the skies in Iraq, is five down in this length of time surprising?
BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No.
Actually, I'm -- I'm very surprised that, during this war, that more helicopters had not been knocked down, either by the enemy or from mechanical failure. If you look at Vietnam and other areas of combat, actually, it's a very good record.
Losing one is bad, obviously. But it's -- there's a lot of flight hours going on, a lot of helicopters in the sky, because the coalition forces, the U.S., owns the sky. It's the third -- three-dimensional fight for the U.S. And no one else can take the skies. And, so, the enemy tries to counter that, obviously.
COOPER: General Grange, correct me if I am wrong. I seem to remember reading in Neil Sheehan's book "A Bright Shining Lie" that, when Vietcong guerrillas figured out how to down U.S. choppers during Vietnam, it was a huge victory or morale boost for them.
Do you feel that the insurgents here have figured out how to bring these choppers down, or is it -- I mean, do you have a gut feeling on this?
GRANGE: Well, the enemy -- our adversaries not only studied Vietnam. They studied Mogadishu and Somalia and other actions.
And they know that, the vulnerability of American or any helicopters in the sky. I mean, there's no place to hide. There's tactics that are used to avoid fire. And there's techniques that are used to counter ground fire, either from missile or small arms.
COOPER: And that's kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you fly too low, which is to counter surface-to-air missiles, then you're vulnerable to small-arms fire. If you fly too high, you're vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles.
GRANGE: That's correct. And either one of them can take down a helicopter.
I mean, I have been in helicopters that have taken over 45 hits and never went down. Also, a helicopter can go down from one hit. It just depends.
But you know, the enemy also knows that there's a lot of sensationalism in knocking out a helicopter. I mean, just as, you know, American soldiers dying in a truck in a convoy or a Humvee is just as drastic. It's just it's not as big of a deal on television or as people talk about it. So, it's a very tempting target to our adversary.
COOPER: Well, certainly, also, for soldiers on the battlefield, the supremacy of American airpower is something which, if they feel they can hit, I guess it gives a morale boost.
Michael, the U.S. military announced today that the new Baghdad security operation, it has officially begun. But, according to the AP, more American troops were killed in combat in Iraq in the past four months than in any comparable period.
Is that an insurgent strategy in response to American politics, to try to bring up the body count? Is it because there are more Americans on patrol in Baghdad? Is it just coincidence? Do we know?
WARE: Well, no, we don't know exactly.
But we do know that the insurgents had, for want of a better term, their own surge of operations that we saw come during the holy month of Eid at the end of last year.
Now, that also aligned with the American midterm elections. And we do know that the insurgents not only monitored U.S. domestic politics during that period, but vowed that they would capitalize on it.
So, I believe that some of those figures will be linked back to offensives, you know, that were to maximize the holy month and the elections.
However, by and large, we still don't have the U.S. troops on the streets of the capital that we're expecting. We're being told that's going to be a slow rollout, and there's no fixed date for when all American troops will be here.
Bottom line is, this is the war. It continues to evolve. And it can easily get worse before it gets better.
COOPER: Michael Ware, General David Grange, appreciate it, guys. Thanks for your time.
GRANGE: Thank you.