Right after virtually 3,000 People in america died on 9/11, the United States needed blood. When a State Office official recommended to President George W. Bush that his 1st move might be diplomatic outreach towards the Taliban, he scoffed.
“F–k diplomacy. We are likely to war.”
But the Pentagon experienced no prepare for US armed service action in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan (where Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were being primarily based), so the task fell to the CIA. The agency was completely ready to struggle in Afghanistan, and prepared.
“I want Osama bin Laden’s head delivered back again in a box,” mission director Cofer Black informed CIA crew leaders.
The previously classified story of Team Alpha, the to start with team of combatants to go driving enemy lines in Afghanistan, is highlighted in Toby Harnden’s e book “First Casualty” (Minor, Brown and Company), out now.
The CIA’s plan after 9/11 was fast and filthy. Smaller groups of operatives would infiltrate Afghanistan to link up with some of the 20,000 soldiers of the Northern Alliance, consisting of rival ethnic factions (typically Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Turkmens) who battled just about every other but ended up unified in their hatred of the Taliban. With the assist of American air guidance — and US dollars greasing the wheels — the Northern Alliance would assistance chase the Taliban and al Qaeda from Afghanistan.
When Black explained to Bush about his program in the Condition Place, the president cherished it.
“That’s what I’m talking about. Go get ’em!”
But achievements in Afghanistan wouldn’t be uncomplicated. The place had outlasted invaders from Alexander the Wonderful to Great Britain to the Soviet Union.
Additionally, Afghanistan had a extensive heritage of battlefield brutality. Prisoners ended up beheaded or thrown into “boiling body fat,” Harnden writes. Following Taliban forces in the 1990s defeated a person rival on the battlefield (Soviet-backed President Mohammad Najibullah), they beat, castrated, and dragged him at the rear of a jeep right before shooting him useless. Then they hung his corpse from a traffic article.
Raping the enemy was also a “long-standing Afghan exercise,” Harnden writes. 1 British intelligence officer told a CIA counterpart that “forcibly sodomizing an infidel invader was element of the ingrained Afghan code of revenge.”
Irrespective of the potential risks, the CIA was “inundated with volunteers” to be part of Group Alpha, Harnden writes. Mike Spann, a former US Marine new to the CIA, was one particular of them. A Southern boy from Winfield, Ala., Spann was a normal church attendee who dispensed suggestions to his congregation’s youth team, like “Don’t be a follower” and “Spread the Christian and conservative concept as a result of your steps and deeds.”
In September 2001, Spann was freshly married to his 2nd wife, Shannon, whom he had satisfied through CIA teaching. Together with two grade-faculty daughters from a initially marriage, Spann also had an toddler son with Shannon named Jake.
But Spann had no doubts about using the fight to al Qaeda.
“Someone has to go do the things no a person else desires to do,” he explained to his 9-year-aged daughter, Alison.
David Tyson also welcomed the prospect to go to Afghanistan. He officially labored as a “second secretary in the Section of State” in Uzbekistan, but really he was a CIA spy. The former educational was added to Group Alpha for his potential to converse regional languages.
Team Alpha quietly invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 17, 2001. As Harnden (who interviewed all six dwelling associates of the staff) writes, Alpha “would be the initially CIA crew to land in Taliban territory.”
To get started out, Team Alpha joined up with an Uzbek warlord in the Northern Alliance, Gen. Abdul Dostum. A squat, furry guy the Us citizens known as “Bluto,” it was rumored he’d had a prisoner tied to a tank tread and driven all around, spreading the man’s bloody continues to be just about everywhere.
But Dostum’s willingness to battle was obvious.
“Now we will go and eliminate the Taliban,” he declared one early morning, three times immediately after Staff Alpha’s arrival. “We go away in fifteen minutes.”
The CIA’s program labored to perfection. Huge air strikes had been referred to as in to bomb Taliban positions, with Dostum’s soldiers on horseback swooping in to end off the enemy.
Gen. Dostum was impressed with the Americans’ means to bomb Taliban strongholds into oblivion, but he exalted when he read the voice of a female US pilot speaking about Workforce Alpha’s radio. Instantly, Dostum got his possess radio person to swap to a channel that enable him call the area Taliban commander, Mahmoud, just throughout the valley.
Dostum mercilessly mocked Mahmoud, laughing about the discomfort he would shortly suffer at the palms of a warrior the Taliban thought shouldn’t even be permitted a job.
“She is declaring ‘I will f–k you up,’ ” Dostum taunted. “I am heading to fall my bombs on your males. They are so weak and have these very small d–ks that even a female can get rid of them!”
By early November, much less than 30 times given that Staff Alpha’s arrival in the region, the northern stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif experienced fallen. Kandahar would shortly follow, and the Taliban was doomed.
On Nov. 25, Alpha stalwarts Spann and Tyson were being at Qala-i-Jangi, a historic fort on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif. Almost 400 overseas fighters have been imprisoned there, most very likely al Qaeda, guarded by inexperienced Northern Alliance troopers. Amid them was John Walker Lindh, “the American Taliban,” who still left California at age 17 to understand Arabic in the Center East and finally moved to Afghanistan, where he properly trained as a Taliban volunteer.
At the time, anthrax attacks were terrorizing the United States and rumors of a different 9/11, involving possibly a dirty bomb or a nuclear just one, had been starting off to circulate. So Spann and Tyson preferred to assemble whatsoever intelligence they could from the prisoners — in spite of the risks.
Tyson reveled in the function, Harnden writes, “using all his languages and cultural know-how to start out to solution the riddle of who [the prisoners] were and what their link could be to foreign plots.” He considered, “This is the smorgasbord — the al Qaeda buffet.”
Spann just wanted to collect intel, but as he interrogated prisoners the captives revolted, swarming him. He shot some in self-protection but was sooner or later overcome, buried less than the bodies of the prisoners who killed him with his individual gun.
Tyson fought his way to liberty — killing someplace concerning 12 and 40 males together the way — but Spann, 32, turned the first American combatant to die in Afghanistan.
“Thousands experienced died on 9/11, and hundreds of Afghans experienced been killed in the months of fighting considering the fact that then,” Harnden writes. “But this was the 1st casualty for The united states on a new, world wide battlefield.”
Mike Spann was buried at Arlington Countrywide Cemetery on Dec. 10, 2001. His widow Shannon Spann gave the eulogy.
“Mike is a hero not for the way that he died,” she mentioned, “but somewhat for the reason that of the way he lived. Mike was well prepared to give his lifetime in Afghanistan, simply because he already gave his lifestyle every single day to us at household.”
Into his casket, Spann’s daughter Alison slipped a note, which read through:
Thank you, Daddy, for creating the earth a improved place. Everybody’s so very pleased of you — specifically me.
No other member of Crew Alpha was killed on that mission, and with the Taliban’s surrender the team disbanded and returned to their several posts. And however, on the day of Spann’s dying, the US governing administration had presently started negotiations to put into practice what Harnden phone calls an “American solution” to Afghanistan’s challenges, with a caretaker federal government and big American armed forces bases at Bagram and Kandahar. It was a approach that would hold the United States in the nation for two far more decades until finally its abrupt and botched pullout this summer.
Nowadays, 20 several years just after Crew Alpha’s triumph, David Tyson, 60, is a retired spy residing in Virginia. He finds President Biden’s conclusion to abandon Afghanistan and the allies he fought together with “shameful.”
He continue to visits Spann’s grave at least at the time a 12 months and tries to “revel” in the beauty of the planet, these types of as a compact beetle on an oak leaf in the Virginia woods.
“He feels an psychological pull to these types of factors,” Harnden writes, “because he has observed so a lot ugliness.”