"An Army of One Introduction" By Master Sergeant Thomas R. Bumback US Special Forces Ret.
For the last five years Jack has waged his own war on al-Qaida capturing hundreds of terrorists during 2001/2002 and significantly aiding the Northern Alliance, and later, the Interim Government, in the liberation of Afghanistan. I was with him again in December 2003, when he learned of an al-Qaida plot to attack six U.S. cities, and a plot to bomb U.S. bases and targets in Afghanistan. In April 2004, he returned to Afghanistan and led a special Northern Alliance Counter-Terrorist Unit against al-Qaida. By July 4th weekend he had captured a Taliban intelligence chief and turned him over to Task Force 180. He had located bin Laden twice, Gulbideen Hekmatyar three times (Hezb-i-Islami terrorist group leader), and bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is currently
#2 on the U.S. Most Wanted al-Qaida list. Jack and his team captured six al-Qaida terrorist bombers right before they killed a presidential candidate and drove explosive gas tankers into Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the American headquarters outside of Kabul.
This candidate, Yunis Qanooni went on to become Afghanistan’s first elected Chief of Parliament. As America’s Independence Day holiday weekend came to a close, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who had lobbied Washington DC before 9/11 to accept the Taliban as the rightfully government of Afghanistan, made a phone call. But that is another story, one which I will leave for Jack to tell one day. A few hours later an Afghan police chief (who has since been fired) ordered a 250 man force to surround Jack’s compound in Kabul, and arrested Jack with some of his team.
Almost all of Jack’s commandos escaped while Jack kept the police and Karzai security force busy. Accused of torture Jack notified the Pentagon that his team had captured all the terrorists the FBI was looking for. After Jack’s mysteriously engineered arrest the FBI had the terrorists released. Jack and his team were held in an Afghan prison where they lived with al-Qaida terrorists and were guarded by “former” Taliban guards. Captain Brent Bennett a former 82nd Airborne forward observation specialist paratrooper and member of the Counter-Terrorist Group was in the same prison, as was Ed Caraballo, a four-time Emmy award-winning journalist from New York.
In Afghan Mujahadeen tradition, Jack requested from the prison commander to take the beatings for all of his people, which he thought was adhered to with one exception; a beating on Caraballo’s feet with a wood stick. Only to find out they beat, tortured, whipped, and electrocuted every one of his Afghans. After the terrorists were released, at the FBI’s request, more bombs went off in Kabul, including a car bomb at a DYNCORP office in late August. It killed four Americans, three Nepalese Ghurkas, and two Afghan soldiers.
The subsequent FBI investigation has yielded no arrests. Jack asserts he has the proof it was the same bombers the FBI released – I have no reason to doubt him – he has pissed me off a thousand times in my 30 year Special Forces career, but never once lied to me. Although the terrorists arrested by Jack alleged torture, not one terrorist could produce evidence of any injuries or marks only 24 hours after all this torture was alleged. One exception was a bomber who was caught with the explosives and had two small abrasions on his ankles from U.S. military Flex-cuffs.
Jack however, when checked by U.S. Embassy doctors, had two hemorrhaged eyes, multiple broken ribs, a separated sternum, a dozen contusions on his head, a body covered in bruises even two weeks later, and second degree burns from boiling water poured on his legs. Jack has spoken freely about the terrorists, the plot, and his mission. He has not however revealed who sent him, where the funding came from, or who his intelligence assets were. I doubt he ever will.
The Pentagon has admitted, after first denying it in a press conference, that Jack’s Task Force Saber/7 team turned over previous prisoners to the U.S. government and had constant communications with high levels of the Pentagon.
I asked Jack to tell me about what it is like in an Afghan prison that was formerly the center for the Taliban and al-Qaida torture sessions. Apparently little has changed for Americans since the Taliban were “formerly” deposed. This is what he had to say;
WHAT TO WEAR TO YOUR TORTURE SESSION
Clothing and accessories can play an important part in helping you survive an al- Qaida* (in my case, by former Taliban Afghans) torture session. Here are a few examples: Rolex Submariner watch – Rolex is a great watch. The GMT and Submariner models have been the trademark of the Green Berets since the early 1960s when the Army issued GMT duel time zone models to all special forces graduates, and Submariners to Green Berets on Scuba teams. I have either broken or lost about four Rolex’s in my special-ops career, including losing one in a chopper combat landing during the beginning of the Afghan war.
This time my Rolex took another beating, literally. I will always remember the exact time and date of my most vicious beating. My legs had iron bars holding them apart, but they had taken off the cuffs to remove my desert BDU uniform top. Apparently anxious to begin, one of the Afghans hit me under the arm in my ribcage with his boot. I blocked the second blow with my left arm, and his boot shattered the unbreakable sapphire crystal on my Rolex. The time was 9:17pm on July 7th. The blow also caved in the dial face, permanently stopping my watch. Recommendation: Save your $3,000 Rolex for reunions. Wear a $25 G-Shock into combat and definitely put it on prior to all torture sessions. Caveat: The blows were coming so fast it could have been the third or forth blow, and the heavy stainless case and band probably kept them from shattering my wrist.
Desert Combat boots- you just can’t beat them. Hell, even Paul Bremer wore them in Iraq – although the press misidentified them as Timberlands. Rummy wore them too. Nowadays they’re much better than the old green and black jungle boots Special Forces wore in the late 60s and 70s. The soles are stronger, the ankles reinforced, and there is padding at the top, with extra long laces. I used to think that the laces were a pain in the ass, not anymore. The “former” Taliban demolition crew sent to dismantle my body, and my psyche, had a remarkably hard time unlacing them. First, they couldn’t find the ends of the laces since they were tucked in. Then they couldn’t open the double knots wrapping around the tops of my ankles. Afghans don’t wear laces, the mostly wear slip-on shoes; Russian style buckle up combat boots, or flipflops. I’ve also seen them wear rubber slippers into combat with no socks. It makes a lot of sense if you have to wash your feet 5 times a day to pray; and take off your shoes every time you eat inside, enter a house, or having a meeting. For me it was a Godsend. They did finally figure the laces out, but the iron leg shackles were holding the boots on – all that reinforcement the Army added to desert boots – and by that time they were too frustrated. That and luckily the guy with the keys to the padlocks on the shackles had gone to dinner. They stood up great and kept the Afghans from breaking all the bones in my feet – very important if you intend to pursue tango dancing as an avocation.
Recommendation: Buy the newest version with the extra nylon and padding. Always double tie your laces and tuck them in. Price $45 at the PX. $30 for surplus ones.
Caveat: They won’t save your shins when the triangular Taliban stick comes out.
Desert BDU Pants- Ripstop nylon ones are great in the desert. They breathe, yet still keep the wind out. The sand can’t penetrate them during a horse charge through a sandstorm, and they dry fast if it ever rains; don’t worry about that in Afghanistan. One thing that really sets them apart is their baggy style and big cargo pockets. I definitely noticed that they soften the blows of a Taliban hose; the Afghans love those solid rubber whips for beatings. In the days of the Taliban controlling Kabul openly, all well dressed members of the Ministry of Vice and Religious Affairs would not go without one. They could swing them hard and fast enough to penetrate a burka and tear the flesh right off a woman who ventured into public without her husband. The impact on my legs was noticeable less than the impact on my torso. Even the next day the value of the desert BDU pants was noticeable. There were barely any welts on my legs.
Recommendation: Buy the heavyweight cotton ones if you expect to be captured and tortured. But the lightweight ripstop version is fine if you have adequate force projection and expect to easily overrun the terrorists. Price! Free in the Army. They are about $35 in the local surplus store. Make sure yours have the OD green label inside with a federal stock number.
Caveat: Blood doesn’t wash out well from the cotton version. If you expect to bleed buy the ripstops. However, the ripstops don’t stand up well to boiling water and Chai (Afghan tea) poured on your crotch. Especially painful if, like most Green Berets and Navy SEALs, you don’t wear briefs or jockey shorts. Years later I still have the burn marks to prove it.
RayBan Predator Titanium Sunglasses- You know I have been wearing RayBan’s for thirty years. And in damn close to a dozen wars. I started with Aviators – the General MacArthur look. Then in the 90s finally switched to grids – more of a triangular small lens killer look – right after I saw the film The Professional. It was a compromise between his tiny oval sunglasses and my Aviators. The Aviators were fragile and you could easily break or bend the wire frames. The Grids had a stronger frame and were great for shooting a SG-1 sniper rifle – that and they fit under a gas mask for hostage rescue operations.
By 9/11 I was wearing Predators, they were cool, the same style as the Oakley’s Special Forces and Delta Force were issuing, and had an extra advantage for me. I could put prescription lenses in them. They served me well for almost a year of combat in Afghanistan. Even surviving a Toyota Land Cruiser flipping into a ravine three times in battle For Tora Bora. By the time I got home to the states they had been re-bent about twenty times and it was time for new ones. I am wearing them on the front cover of the book The Hunt for Bin Laden. RayBan stopped their partnership with Killer Loops and came out with a new model – the Titanium PS-2 sport wraparounds. I bought two pair, one with G-15 tint for night and general use, and one set with polarized lenses for driving through the desert. What can I say – I love RayBans. When a fellow that looked like the Taliban version of Goldfinger’s OddJob was cracking my skull with fists the size of a pot roast the PS-2 Predators survived with barely a scratch, and the frames were not even bent!
Recommendation: Oakley’s are great on the beach in Santa Monica – but if you are going into war, ditch em’ and get RayBan’s – get the plastic lenses. A few extra scratches are worth the extra protection from stray J-DAM bomb blasts, friendly fire from an AC-130 Spectre Gunship, and the debris from the al-Qaida and Taliban RPG rockets that come your way they’re about $150 at Sunglass Hut. And if you want a prescription or special lenses go to Prism Optical in Florida. I bought mine, $450 list price, from Prism for $325.
Caveat: None needed, perfection has no flaws. Stick to matte black frames if you’re shooting at people and getting shot at. 8 ICS Demon Helicopter Extraction Belt- Another piece of indispensable gear for war or torture. I invented, designed, and built this belt with the help of a Special Forces rigger more than 25 years ago. We were doing STABO extractions and needed a better safety system. STABO is when your exfiltrated from a hot LZ (Landing Zone) in the middle of a firefight. Instead of landing the helicopter drops eight 120’ ropes and four of you hook one to each shoulder and fly out hanging a hundred feet below. The belt works as a backup to the harness, and if you don’t have a harness, the belt `can take you out using 8,000 pound test V-ring parachute hardware. The 6,000 pound test buckle locks the belt from opening and Velcro keeps the type 8 nylon parachute belt from opening by mistake. Everyone makes it now, and you won’t find a Special Forces troop or CIA clandestine services operator without one. But the ICS version is still the original and still the best. It also goes great with jeans or Columbia cargo pants.
In May four of us undressed in the desert mountains and strapped our belts together – we used them to pull a Toyota SUV Surf off the side of a ledge right before it rolled the rest of the way down a 300’ cliff. Our Afghan soldiers were amazed. That saved a $25,000 Ministry of Defense 4x4, but the ICS belt also saved my ass, literally. I made the mistake of saying fuck you to one of my torturers as they left the room one night. Not smart when your leg shackled, hand cuffed, and in the basement of what was the Taliban’s most infamous dungeon in Afghanistan.
The subsequent beating was followed by rape. A favorite past time of Taliban psychos from Kandahar – male rape that is – they don’t seem too interested in raping women for some reason. Needless to say, the stupid fucks could not figure out how to unhook the ICS belt Velcro closure and tugged at it for about ten minutes before giving up and settling on a half dozen dry humps to get the point across. Of course it did help having the iron bars on my legs because they couldn’t pull the pants off either. And there was one other dilemma they encountered – ever try to fuck a pissed off mountain lion while you’re holding its tail? Because that’s about how hard I fought, twisted, and rolled; catapulting one of them over my head with the leg irons.
Two other features that set the ICS belt apart from the rest. First, it is sewn by an FAA qualified parachute rigger, and second, it has a hidden compartment for a cuff key, hacksaw, and a few hundred dollar bills. You have to order it special for that because the gear is permanently sewn inside the belt, so your wife won’t borrow the cash for a weekend shopping spree while your home between wars. You have know idea of what a brand new Ben Franklin can buy until you’re locked away in a third-world shit hole somewhere. Now if I just had 100 more of those Franklin greenbacks, I’d be out of here and drinking a Pina Colada with a hot chick.
Recommendation: Buy the ICS version from Desantis Holster Company on Long Island. Send it to ICS in Fayetteville NC and pay the extra dough for that secret compartment add-on, or Desantis might be able to send it complete. Never leave home without it. Cost $49.95.
Caveat: its exact waist size made for the deluxe model, so you won’t be able to gain more than two inched on your waist, which should give you another reason not to miss the gym. And the deluxe version is $100 plus the greenbacks you want sewn into it.
Prayer Beads- If you’re expecting a visit from your local Taliban goons, or any Afghan “security” official for that matter, you want to make sure you’ve got your prayer beads. They will usually scream at you for a few minutes before they start beating you. If you’re not yet handcuffed or tied up, get those prayer beads out of your pocket quick and start counting “Ya Allah, Ya Allah, Ya Allah,” as fast as you can in a low moderate tone. As a white guy from New York, it’s sure to confuse them just long enough to diffuse their rage against a non-Muslim, and will probably, in fact, almost certainly, limit the length and intensity of your beatings. There is a secret phrase that can almost certainly stop them from killing you – but that is reserved for future graduates of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare school SERE course (survival, escape, resistance, and evasion) for Green Berets at Fort Bragg, NC. Invoking it might have saved U.S. Navy SEAL Neil Roberts who was captured and killed during Operation Anaconda in March 2002, beheaded in fact, but they never told you that.
Recommendation: With prayer beads less is often more. Buy the dark wood set with the red tassel. Enemy captors identify more with their austere look and plain style. About one dollar at your local bazaar, in a remote desert village. 10 Caveat: If you’re already captured you’ll be restrained so tightly you’ll never get them out of your pocket to help. If you don’t speak the local language or know something about praying etiquette, they could assume you took them off one of their dead colleagues and kill you on the spot. Best to yell Allah Akbar at every opportunity. Now you’re ready for capture – welcome to hell, don’t expect to return.
About the Authors – Thomas Bumback is a retired Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army Special Forces. He also is currently Deputy Director of the U.S. Counter-Terrorist Group, which has privately been fighting terrorism for almost 30 years. He has written for Soldier of Fortune magazine, and various military and official publications.
Photos are Available from Polaris Images, NY, NY Polarisimages.com – Kelly Price 212/695-5656 Jack Idema is a co-author of the best-selling books The Hunt for Bin Laden (Random House) and Task Force Dagger (McMillan) about the 200 American Special Forces that defeated the Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan between October 2001 and June 2002. He is the recipient of the National Press Club Award, one of the world’s most prestigious awards for Journalism. He is currently located at the world’s most infamous prison- Pulacharke.