THE SIXTH PILLAR
- TASK FORCE 7 -
The Making of An American Holy War
©2012 Penny Alesi, The Sixth Pillar Collection, all rights reserved.
Seven Green Berets, Seven Men, Seven Agents, Seven Forces
Operating covertly, clandestinely, and off the reservation against the forces of Terror
They were disavowed by their government before they ever started
Strong Literary Agency
New York, NY
THE SIXTH PILLAR
- TASK FORCE 7 -
By December of 2003, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network had gotten back on their feet, fueled by the magnetic pull of a new jihad in Iraq. America had made the same mistake in Iraq which the Soviet Union had made in Afghanistan. Bush and his advisors had underestimated the amount of poor young Muslim fundamentalists just looking for a way to enter paradise. Bin Laden had dispatched his best men left to Iraq to lead the new resistance against the infidel. His ability to inspire, and his skill atthe delegation of tasks and authority was unmatched. If in fact it was him. Or was he dead, and was it covertly led by someone else?
At the moment, that mattered not. What did matter were the 36 al-Qaida operatives that had been dispatched into the United States to conduct a new wave of terror, an operation that would eclipse 9/11. Just as they had when the backpack nukes went missing from Russia in 1991, on their way to Islam, the U.S. government once again found itself unable to stop the threat, or even counter it. But Jack Idema did not, he had been hunting those weapons for 16 years. Bin laden called it The Sixth Pillar, a parable based on the Five Pillars of Islam. Six nukes, six US cities, six teams of six. To combat it Task Force 7 was formed. Seven men, seven agents, seven forces, operating covertly, clandestinely, and completely off the reservation. They were disavowed by the government before they ever started. They were publicly disavowed when the secret operation went awry. It was a conflict between bin Laden and a man then known in Afghanistan only as Jack, and it was, without any doubt, a personal battle. Waged in a personal style, on a personal level, through personal acts at a level of intensity hard to comprehend.
It literally altered or destroyed the lives of everyone in its wake.
Al-Qaida did not mean “the base,” as was believed. It meant “the basis.” The first brick in a
foundation—bin Laden’s foundation for a worldwide Muslim revolution. The basis for a world-wide jihad, fueled by zealots, run by “the Sheik,” and implemented through the internet. Bin Laden had used his first jihad in Afghanistan to begin the basis of what he knew would be a worldwide movement. He would bring that movement to the world in a new way, electronically, and it would be called megaterrorism. Starting with using text messages on mobile phones, and satellite phones, he would eventually use the internet to run his new terror corporation, dubbed Holy War, Inc. by some. But just as al-Qaida became more astute at running a terror conglomerate, they also became more media savvy.
With the advent of Abu Ghraib they learned a new skill. Cry torture and let slip the dregs of terror. Time after time al-Qaida terrorists would be set free for lack of evidence, only to return to the fight filled with stories of torture and humiliation at the hands of the infidels. They would use those horror stories to recruit more foot soldiers to their cause. Al-Qaida had come up with the ultimate defense: Torture. Yell torture when caught and slip away to kill again. It was brilliant, and thanks to the press, it worked.
In the end, Jack would lose. Bin Laden and his Sixth Pillar would slip away. Jack and his men would be prisoners of war, tortured, beaten, starved, and imprisoned for ten years. But not before they stopped an al-Qaida plot to kill diplomats, hundreds of American soldiers, and topple the Afghan government.
However, it wasn’t bin Laden that brought Jack and his team down. It was the FBI. This is their story.
A story of intrigue, terrorists, spies, covert black ops, renegade Green Berets, and insidious treachery. It has been one of, it not the, biggest stories of 2004 in the War On Terror, even eclipsing the Abu Ghraib scandal. This is the real story of Task Force 7, told from inside the Taliban’s most notorious prison. Of their crusade against the enemies of America. Just the way it happened. The way the government said it didn’t.
Rough Working Outline
Part I – Afghanistan/Iraq/New York/Kabul/Fort Bragg/Washington
1. The Sixth Pillar – al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, their new plan begins
2. The Call – Zabi Calls Jack to first identify the terrorist threat
3. Honor Thy Country – The FBI/DOD/CIA are alerted to the terrorist threat
Part II – Fort Bragg/Washington/Kabul
4. Bureaucrats & Bullshit— Drama in D.C.; FBI/CIA/DOD/NSA– why we can’t win
5. The Box— FBI Lie Detectors, AQ instituting their Iraq protocol in Afghanistan
6. Building a Team— CTG, Zabi, Boykin, Rohen, the boys, the groundwork, the logistics, and how a clandestine operation is conceived and implemented
7. Hunting “the G-Man”— Red Cross GITMO Letters, Meeting with OBL’s Daoud
Part III – Delhi/Kabul/Tora Bora/Pakistan/Bagram
8. In-Country — Zabi, logistics, recruiting Northern Alliance and Jack’s old soldiers
9. Boots on the Ground— getting there is half the battle
10. Building an Alliance— working with the NA, repore, Kyber Pass, etc
11. OPERATION MONK— Task Force-180, Task Force 176, CIA, etc
12. Mike Spann— Return to Mazar-i-Sharif/CIA/the prison revolt/General Atta and bringing Zorro into the team, buying Stinger missiles with the State Dept.
Part IV – Kabul/Jalalabad/Khost/Eastern and Southern Afghanistan
13. “770297”—The plate # – the capture of “G-man” on Jalalabad Road
14. Breaking the G-Man – getting the G-man to talk about the assassination plot
15. Busting Serajan – an intricate part of the assassination plot; a Hekmatyar terrorist
16. The Raid on Malikyar – the most frightening terrorist of all
17. Aggressive Interrogation – breaking down terrorists the Jack way
18. The Terror Plot unravels – identifying the entire terror network and the targets
Part V – Kabul/Washington/Langley/Fort Bragg/CENTCOM
19. The CT Op Starts Unraveling – At war with the FBI and Ambassador Khalilizad
20. Hitting The Fan – The capture and arrest of Jack and his team, treachery & deceit
21. Welcome to Dozakh – Taken into NDS custody; interrogation/torture/and pain
22. “A bad day is no brother” – It appears the NA deserts the team and disavows
23. The Trial – convicted by the international press before it ever started
24. The Appeal – The press is banned; secret hearings, secret deals, secret results
25. The Siege at Pulacharke Prison – Saber 7 loses some of their best friends in battle
26. Always the Hard Way – three years at the world’s most infamous prison
27. Karzai Folds – in Afghanistan you only win by force
28. Leaving Afghanistan – how in the end, Mullah Mujahed was traded for Jack.
Note: The above chapter list is just a personal rough outline of the people, places, events. I am not writing the chapters as I did in the Hunt for Bin Laden and in Task Force Dagger, which were long and detailed. I am going to write this in the style of sample chapters you see here. Short chapters, fast action, abrupt twists and turns. Most of the chapter layouts will be more like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons than The Hunt for Bin Laden when each chapter covered an entire event or place. Much of the book was written longhand, pen and paper, and smuggled out in sections. A publisher will be supplied with a copy of the drafts so there is no question about how it was written, or by whom. The first book finished will be The Sixth Pillar - Task Force 7. That will be the real story, not the hyperbole lies the press has concocted. The story is backed up by extensive evidence (an understatement) supporting everything, almost every conversation, every meeting (audio and video). Personally I have only given short interviews to Rolling Stone and Maxim. These are the only two news organizations I have actually given an interview with. Although I talked briefly with Financial Times in August (2004). The reporter’s name was Viktoria (my first wife’s name) so, as you might imagine, I couldn’t turn her down. If anyone else says I gave him or her an interview, or any of my guys gave them an interview, that is a lie. It never happened. (A good example is Shamus McGraw at Stuff—I NEVER gave him interview and all those quotes were made up). Further, there will be no interviews ever again. In the past two years I have turned down more than 60 interviews including several paid interview offers. The next time this story gets told, it will be in my own words, no one else’s. The way it really happened, not the way the media invented it happened.
The enclosed article The Deadly Dreaded “T” Word, was written for Vanity Fair in a small mud cell, by pen, on scrap paper, smuggled out in sections. It is a comprehensive outline of what the book will look like. However, three main differences are; 1) the book will not have the torture of us as a lynchpin, 2) the book will be written in chronological order, 3) the book will be in third person, unless it’s happening directly to me, then in first person.
The style is unusual, but I think it would be very cool. But I am really open to suggestions on this once a publisher sees the first draft.
The next two books will include the fall of the Soviet empire and the nukes that al-Qaida gained access to years later. It is basically done, and needs one more rewrite before being ready, but I cannot do that until I return to the US. The other one is called TASK FORCE SABER –and is the complete story of my first year in Afghanistan, the fall of the Taliban, and the war, from my perspective as the only person operating alone with the Mujahadeen and Northern Alliance from October 2001 until August 2002. That book was 80% complete before I left for Afghanistan in April 2004. It will be completed about 60 days after I finish The Sixth Pillar.
Chapter 1 of The Sixth Pillar is already written at the office in NC. I do not have access to it at this time. So it is not enclosed. It is cool, it starts with a secret al-Qaida meeting in Afghanistan and a covert contact in Iran. All of which actually happened.
Everybody remembers a story differently. Everybody that reads Major Jim Morris’ best-selling War Story comes away with a different view of the Vietnam War. Every eyewitness recalls a different version of an accident, or a crime. Everybody spins a news story the way they want it to spin. That’s the beauty of a story, once it is over and you tell it, you tell it your way, and it’s your story. More than one thousand news articles have been written about this story. But that was their story. Those were their facts– and believe me when I tell you that most of them were bullshit.
Well, this is my war story. It’s my version. Maybe some things were worse, maybe some things were better. But it’s the way I remember it. And it’s the first time I’ve told it, in my own words.
It was a really fucked up day….
Unconsciousness did not come with the first blow, although the flashes of light
and bombardment of bright tiny supernovas shooting through my brain should have
brought a swift blackout and an end to the pain. Unfortunately they did not.
I have been in hundreds of fights and plenty of shootouts in my life. It has been
my ability to stay conscious and focused that has always helped me stay alive even in
the worst of circumstances, and against far superior opponents. But this time I prayed
for unconsciousness. God granted my prayers and somewhere between the seventh and
eighth blows to my head, I slipped into a better world. One of distant memories and
The press had been brutal throughout our trial… and before… from the moment
someone used the dreaded and deadly “T” word—Torture. The Associated Press had
cast the die on Day One. The reports were complete lies. Prisoners were found hanging
upside down, tortured, in the private house of three Americans in Kabul… A brief
shootout… the random kidnapping of bearded Muslim men off the Kabul sidewalks in
the hopes of finding a terrorist and getting a big fat reward. And, of course, the “T”
word. More Americans, torturing more Muslims. That was the story. And the press
only got worse from there. A lot worse.
Our story has been turned into the most controversial case in years. Our counterterrorist
task force had been referred to alternatively as vigilantes, secret government
operatives, free-lance bounty hunters, nut jobs, spies, and/or mercenaries. According to
the press, we were either misguided crusaders, disavowed agents, torturers, black ops
“cut loose,” con men, or American heroes, depending on who you asked, and which day
of the week you asked. We were in fact— TASK FORCE SABER/7.
Every American with a son or daughter serving at Bagram Air force Base in
Afghanistan, every husband or wife with a spouse, and every American who has a
friend serving at Bagram, should remember the terrorist bombing of the Marine
barracks in Beirut and remember the 9/11.
Then they should ask why the government failed to stop these attacks. The
answer is a failure of human intelligence, action, and imaginative daring. Those are not
my words, those are the words of 9/11 Commission.
When we alerted the FBI to a terrorist threat against U.S. personnel they failed to
act in any positive way against the terrorists, even though one of the terrorists was fully
identified by name, description, and location. Clearly, to us, the FBI was failing to act
After contacting the Pentagon we acted; asked for deconfliction instructions
(deconfliction is the phrase for keeping covert ops out of each other’s way), asked for
support, briefed them on our mission, and then we immediately deployed to
Afghanistan. Working with our former Northern Alliance allies, we captured first a
man known only as Ghulamsaki, the terrorist the FBI was informed of previously, and
then subsequently captured 95% of the entire al-Qaida and Hezb-i-Islami terrorist
operation cell behind the bomb plot. In four different operations and raids, we captured
terrorists, explosives, detonators, and vehicles that were to be used in the terrorist
The plot involved the assassination of the Afghan President, Minister of Defense,
Minister of Education, two ambassadors, and the leaders of Commander Ahmad Shah
Massoud’s Jamiat Party. Had any of them been successful it would have resulted in
certain civil war and the deaths of untold Afghan and American lives. The lives of
American soldiers, not just from civil war, but from the destruction of our major
military base in Afghanistan.
As I look around I realize how patently bizarre life really is, imprisoned with
terrorists in a distant desert land, caged and beaten in a primitive world, while the
terrorists who we stopped, have been set free, to kill again.
I have always loved exotic war torn places. Africa, Latin America, South East Asia,
and Afghanistan. In 1978, as a very young Special Forces sergeant, I pined over the end
of the Vietnam War. Since the age of twelve I knew my destiny. I knew I would be a
Green Beret,1 I knew I would serve my country, and knew I would help “cleanse the
world of communism,” as my high school art teacher, Wally Noahkowski wrote inside a
first edition copy of The Green Berets,2 which he gave me at my high school graduation
in Poughkeepsie, NY. As one of the smallest, skinniest, non-athletic runts in the class,
no one except Mr. Noahkowski actually expected me to become a Green Beret. Not
even my mother.
1 Editor’s Note: Jack became America’s youngest Green Beret in 1975
2 I still have this book with the inscription if Vanity Fair would like to see it.
Two years after Wally Noahkowski gave me that book, I was jumping out of airplanes
on the border of Eastern Germany with the10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). We
were America’s clandestine spear into the evil empire’s heart. I had expected exotic
women, rainforests, and jungle battles; what I got, was a runny nose, freezing on
snowshoes, and sitting in German cow dung filled fields spying on the East Germans
and the Soviets.
In the fall of 1977 I had already sent back a “BORIS” Intel report identifying and
recording the first ever in-flight sighting of an armed Soviet FOXBAT fighter. I’d also
gotten the first picture as it came about three hundred feet over the grazing field’s tree
line. 10th Special Forces Group Battalion Headquarters in Bad Tölz, Germany didn’t
believe my report, especially since it contradicted the current CIA reports that
FOXBATS had not even done test flights in Eastern Europe yet.
So began my opposing stance to the status quo determinations and intel quality
of America’s intelligence agencies. So also began my belief that nothing in war beats
HUMINT– Human Intelligence– eyes and boots on the ground. One thousand
intelligence analysts, logistics, and support personnel cannot do what a handful of
operators can. Sure, an operator needs their support, but it is not indispensable. The
operator is. An operator is a door-kicker first; an intelligence agent, a shooter, field
agent, a medic, a commo man, a demo man, a spy, and a diplomat without portfolio, all
rolled up in one little neat package. Operators, as they are referred to in Special Forces,
Delta Force, and the British SAS, are indispensable to war, any war, especially the War
On Terror. The best operators can convince you they are whatever they need to be at
the time. And that means whatever they need to be to win. In our world— the world of
an operator— winning is all that matters.
Vietnam had ended on April 25, 1975 and with it my quest to meet the communists on
the battlefield. But, by the spring of 1977 I was fortunate enough to be one of only two
dozen elite super-secret Hwa Rang Do warriors clandestinely trained at Fort Bragg, NC,
by the legendary Michael Echanis, and his “deputy” Charles Sanders of the 5th Special
Forces Group (Airborne) also at Fort Bragg back then.
Mike was arguably the best hand-to-hand combat killer in the entire world. He
became infamous for his completely unconventional look. Wearing rip-stop jungle
fatigues that hadn’t been issued since Vietnam and were dyed black, Mike and Chuck
Sanders sauntered around Fort Bragg with impunity. I can still hear Jimi Hendrix
playing on Mike’s 8-Track in his stripped down Jeep Wrangler. Their long hair,
handlebar mustaches, Hwa-Rang-Do tiger & dragon tattoos, and black-dyed Coral
Bootie sneakers sent a signal to aspiring young Special Forces trainees– black ops,
spook missions– as CIA sponsored activities were referred to– were still around for the
Green Berets, even if for only a elite select few. Echanis was keeping alive the main
reason soldiers joined Special Forces– for that one chance in a twenty-year career, to
embark on a clandestine mission that could help alter the map of the world, for the good
mankind. Such was the motto of the Special Forces, “De Oppresso Liber,” we liberate
The mission of the JFK Special Warfare Center’s Hwa Rang Do hand-to-hand
Combat Special Weapons and Tactics Committee was to train and deploy 44 instructors
throughout the Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and Marine Recon units.
They would then carry the art to a few dozen SMUs (Special Mission Units) and Special
Operations teams. It was the forerunner of the SF Charlie Companies, which were the
Special Forces hostage rescue and counter-terrorist strike forces. But, with only about
20 or so individual operators ready, General Emerson, the Fort Bragg commander,
ordered the project terminated. It was too violent, too “scary,” and way too politically
In the wake of CIA congressional hearings, President Ford had issued an E.O.
(Executive Order) banning assassinations. Our organization had been formed after the
E.O. was issued making it even worse in the administration’s view. And, once the real
purpose leaked out, the course and the unit was immediately disbanded. Colonel
“Chargin” Charlie Beckwith, the creator and first commander of Delta Force was not
happy and voiced strong objections. Beckwith knew this type of soldier would be
needed one day. Still, Echanis’ “boys” were dispersed to different units, not allowed to
teach their skills, and would never officially operate again together.
By 1978, the Communist Sandanistas were rolling over Nicaragua and Mike
asked me to join him and Chuck in Managua. I wouldn’t be engaging Soviet soldiers,
but I would be killing their proxies. Beggars can’t be choosy, so Nicaragua it was. At
least target-rich jungles were back on my radar screen. A few short months later Mike
and Chuck were killed when a SAM-7 rocket hit their twin engine aircraft. There were
lots of stories about how it happened, but most were bullshit– even then the press rarely
got anything right in war.
Jimmy Carter had officially pulled everyone out, and abandoned Somoza and his
National Guard, which was out of ammo, out of medical supplies, almost out of men,
but still fighting valiantly. Mike was dead. Chuck was dead. And the Sandanistas were
overrunning the entire country at an exponentially increasing rate. Things were going
rapidly downhill. As much as it pained me, I left Nicaragua, voicing, like McArthur in
the Philippines, to return one day and help liberate its people. Just five years later,
thanks to Ronald Reagan, America did, and I spent the next few years in and out of El
Salvador, Honduras, and finally, Nicaragua.
Reagan, the CIA, and Special Forces were changing the course of history– for
the better. Then the Iran-Contra scandal broke. Special Ops were under the gun, black
money dried up, cross-border ops were severely cut back, and the press was on
everyone’s ass. But by that time it was too late, communism was falling like dominos
in reverse. Even though (luckily, as it kept out conventional military forces and the
military-industrial complex) Congress had imposed a “speed limit” of only 55 American
“advisors” in El Salvador, the FMLN insurgents had been slaughtered, and El Salvador
was destined for peace and democracy. Now, twenty years later, look at Central
America. Americans are building beach houses in Nicaragua, and dive resorts in El
With another communist country just a stone throw away from our southern
border, I started following the events in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion on
Christmas 1979. Finally, it seemed there was a place I could meet the “evil empire”
face to face. Some of my friends were already working on the top secret “mule pack
program.” They were getting weapons, ammo, and MANPAD ground-to-air missiles
into the hands of the Afghan Mujahadeen. First Red-eyes, then Stingers, guns, and
ammo. Stinger Missiles flowed like rainwater thanks to Congressman Charlie Wilson
and his boys.
I wanted in on it, badly, but 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) had the deal
locked up. Even my pleading and begging could not open that door. Luckily, I was
already focused on a different area of operations that would not be mainstream for
another 20 years– counter-terrorism. I was good at it, so good in fact, that the JFK
Special Warfare Center and School (the G-3, director of operations) sent me to SOT to
evaluate the course.
Special Operations Training (SOT) was conducted at the army’s super-secret
Mott Lake Compound, out in the remote regions of Fort Bragg. “Special Ops” was a
new phase for SF, and this was more than a decade before “Special Operations” was
endorsed by the old war horses and grew into a 25+ billion dollar a year (SF only gets
4%) separate major command known as US SOCOM (US Special Operations
In fact, Mott Lake and SOT were so secret that when a couple of local cowboys
drove their pick-up truck down the wrong road one night—after more than a couple of
beers—they were quickly interdicted by a bevy of 40mm grenades. Apparently they
were too drunk to read the signs “Deadly Physical Force Authorized Beyond This Point
Without Warning - TURN BACK NOW!” Little was left of the truck or the two men.
I was a ringer in the course, sent to send reports and my evaluations back to the
command at JFKSWCS. Apparently there was a growing concern that America’s
premier CT (Counter-Terrorist) school was ineffective, outdated, and poorly run. In
1983 it was, and as a result of my input several instructors were transferred and the
course completely revamped. Today it is– thanks to the skill of the highly trained Green
Berets that run its successor– the best CT course in the world. My “undercover” partner
during the course was a decorated Vietnam hero named Gary Rohen. He had just been
promoted Major, but during the course he wore captain‘s rank so he wouldn‘t outrank
the school commander. He was also one of my best friends, and hopefully still is.
By 1991 I was engaging the Soviets again, this time directly. But now they were
Russians, and known as the OMON, a state-sponsored terrorist group operating in the
Baltic Republics. They were killing Lithuanians and Lithuanians were hunting and
Lithuania was in a desperate struggle to break the communist stranglehold.
Soviet tanks were driving through the streets and over Lithuanians.
Nothing gives you a sense of the fragility of life like watching a Soviet T-80
battle tank drive over people. Their mangled bodies are left behind bearing the gaping
tiger claw marks of iron tank tread lacerations.
This was the Soviet Union I knew and hated. My best friend in Lithuania was
then, and now, Jouzas Rimkevicius, a former major in the Soviet Militia. We had
become quick life-long friends after a shooting contest in the basement range of the
Lithuanian KGB Headquarters.
Jouzas hated the Soviets. I hated the Soviets. Jouzas loved a good bottle of
cheap Russian Vodka, and so did I. It didn’t matter who won the match, although I did
barely, what mattered was us sharing that bottle of vodka, and a common enemy.
The short and skinny is; we uncovered an OMON operation to transfer nuclear
materials and weapons to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Some of the nuclear materials
were stopped, most were not. The Soviet Union collapsed. Eight Lithuanian border
guards were killed, and the backpack nuclear weapons were in my sights, as was the
Soviet spy leading the operation.
Then the FBI got involved after I gave a July 1992 Pentagon briefing during
which I accused the FBI of being compromised by the KGB. After the briefing an FBI
agent named Pitts and I came within inches of a fistfight. The FBI not only wanted my
sources; they wanted me to shut my mouth about KGB moles inside the Bureau.
Despite my battle with the FBI, I never stopped the flow of information to the United
States Department of Defense. The FBI warned me then, and later, repeatedly, that it
was not in my interest to resist them. A smart guy would have listened to them. A few
months later I got set up on phony criminal charges. Of course the FBI still insists I was
guilty of wire fraud. We won the first trial (11 to 1 for acquittal- a hung jury), ran out of
money, and lost the second trial. The FBI tried to capture the nukes and the smugglers
themselves and failed. My wife and I went to prison and the nukes were loose. The
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low
Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) wrote a letter3 to the judge asking for my release. It was on
official stationary, and said, “… Idema may be the last person for whom the phrase I
give you my word still has meaning. To Keith [Jack], honor is everything, and his word
is the manifestation of that honor. I have accepted it frequently in the past, and I have
never been disappointed.” The ASD SO/LIC is the top of the food chain in Special
Operations. A DOD letter such as this, to a federal judge no less, has never before, and
I doubt ever will, be written again, for anyone. Dozens of letters like this, on official
stationary, were sent from Special Operations people all over the world, including
Rimkevicius, who had become chief of Lithuanian INTERPOL. So much for a web
blog claim that I was a shitty soldier.
CBS 60 Minutes did a story called “America’s Worst Nightmare,” about the
beryllium smuggling part of the operation. One shipment of beryllium– used as a
reflector in nuclear weapons– was permeated with weapons grade U-235 Uranium
traces. U-235 is used in SADMs (Special Atomic Demolition Munitions). The press
3 This letter, along with dozens and dozens of similar letters, can be provided by Master Sergeant
Thomas Bumback 910/323-8581, or my wife.
calls them briefcase nukes. There is no such thing; they are man-portable nukes or
“backpack nukes.” They don’t fit in a briefcase, or a suitcase. They are deadly. That’s
where I met Gary Scurka, a former Connie Chung producer who produced the CBS
piece on nuclear smuggling, and won a huge award for it in June 1996.4 I didn’t go to
the award ceremony. I was in federal prison fighting the last remaining superpower in
the world with a typewriter and a law book.
Earl Edwin Pitts was arrested in December of 1996 for espionage. I danced the
jig on a table in prison. I lost my wife to a buck sergeant at Fort Bragg. On September
15, 1997, CBS 60 Minutes ran another special about nukes. This time Russian Vice
President Alexander Lebed admitted they were missing. Two days later I was released
without ever giving up my assets to the FBI, or telling them anything else, besides “fuck
you.” I didn’t trust the FBI then, and I haven’t trusted them since. Almost two years
later, Robert Phillip Hanssen, a senior FBI official who was also head of the FBI’s
NSD,5 which was involved in my case, was also arrested for espionage. I danced the jig
again, this time with my new wife and soulmate, Viktoria. Danny Coulson, another FBI
senior agent that buried me was forced to resign over Ruby Ridge and Waco. Another
enemy, FBI Deputy Director Larry Potts also got fired. My spooky world had come full
Life was good. I had a house, a dog, a hot tub, a new turbo-charged Grand Prix,
a great job, and a beautiful wife. My old enemy, the Soviet Union was extinct. I was
writing a book and I had just won the prestigious National Press Club Award.6 Special
Forces are now called the “quiet professionals,” but in the old days, we were the “silent
professionals.” To me, that meant silent stalking and missions, not being afraid to speak
out– and lots of guys didn’t like me because of my penchant for sounding off about
things I thought were good, or bad, or stupid, depending on the given situation. I’ve
never said I wasn’t a wise-ass with an attitude. Still, everything was grand.
Then the fucking terrorists blew up New York...
4 IRE Tom Renner Award for Investigative Reporting. www.ire.org
5 You can download the Hanssen report at the FBI website- www.doj.gov
6 Best Reporting on-line, 2001, for “The Colonel’s Wife.” See National Press Club site.
The first tower had not even collapsed yet when my wife Viktoria turned from the TV in
tears and said in a soft voice,
“You’re going back to war aren’t you?”
“I don’t know,” I answered.
“I do, I’m going to lose you,” she said.
“Hey, we don’t even know who did this yet,” I was trying to reassure her, but she
knows me to well.
“No, but I know you have an idea, and when you find out I know you are gone.”
Like so many others, our lives were changed that day, but my destiny was clear.
I would engage terrorists wherever they were, wherever they hid, wherever they ran. I
would die before I let them do this again. Some people say you write your own destiny,
others say it is written for you before you are born. Bin Laden wrote mine on
September 11, 2001.
A few weeks later President George Bush said we were all soldiers in the war on terror
and every American must do what they could to stop terrorists and fight terrorism.
I was a Green Beret, and I knew what I could do. By the way, I am still a Green
Beret. The funny thing about Green Berets is that you don’t retire, wake up the next
morning, and say, “wow, I’m a former Green Beret.” Marines say, once a Marine,
always a Marine. With the Green Berets it’s not only a concept, it’s a law. The Green
Beret is a presidentially7 authorized insignia, which just happens to be headgear. You
are awarded the Green Beret. You earn it. It is not like the maroon beret of America’s
airborne forces, or the US Army Ranger beret, which is given to you when you arrive at
the unit, and relinquished upon leaving. There are no former Green Berets, unless of
course they’re dead. You can be a former member of the US Special Forces, but you
are always a Green Beret.
The next day I was packing my bags for Afghanistan. It was to be a
humanitarian aid mission. I would set up drop zones for airdrops to Northern Alliance
soldiers fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida. Their beloved commander, Ahmad Shah
Massoud, had been assassinated by al-Qaida during an interview just two days before
9/11. I would also provide combat medic assistance to our wounded allies. My friend,
Gary Scurka, then a producer with National Geographic, went with me. Also along was
Gregg Long, a Lt. Colonel with DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) who was now
working in de-mining operations in Cambodia.
7 “The Green Beret is “… a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” John F. Kennedy, describing the Green Beret on December 10, 1961. This became a Presidential Executive Order that would forever protect the Green Beret as the official headgear of U.S.Army Special Forces qualified individuals. On or about 1974, the US Army officially began awarding the “S” designator after a person’s MOS (Military Occupational Insignia) which remains with the person for life. In the mid-1980’s the SF (Special Forces) Tab was also awarded as a non-revocable,non-expirable badge and official award. By 1990 the Army would create the new “18 Series” for Special Forces, assigning all graduates an additional lifetime designation.
I asked ten other “retired” Green Berets to go with us. They all said they were
either too old or it was too crazy and dangerous. Jouzas sent me an email saying he
would never return to Afghanistan, where he had been with the Soviet Army. He said it
was a place where even your best friend would have you for dinner with his family, then
say “goodnight my brother,” and cut your throat the minute you turned your back. I had
no idea how in the end, Jouzas would be so right. Well, almost right. Little did I know
it would be my own people that slit my throat, not the Afghans.
I knew Glen, a lawyer, and a doctor, would be a great asset on the team, so I gave
him a call. Problem was, Glen was also a Reserve Warrant Officer on a Special Forces
team. Glen wanted to wait on the chance they would deploy his team. I tried to tell him
the war would move too fast, too furiously, and it would be years before his reserve
team was sent, probably on a civil affairs reconstruction mission. But Glen insisted they
would be deployed any day. This time I was right, Glen wouldn’t get into Afghanistan
until almost two years later.
We were to be in-country just a few weeks, during which Gary would document
the plight of Commander Massoud’s Northern Alliance soldiers, and their desperate
need for aid and supplies. I promised Viktoria I would be home by Thanksgiving.
In early November 2001 we were already making a huge difference on the ground,
bringing in supplies, and providing front line combat medic support to the NA (as
Special Forces referred to the Northern Alliance). Long was busy mapping minefields
and helping me find out who was poisoning the HDR food drops– the Pentagon
originally announced it was the Taliban. It turned out to be our side. Our report made it
to Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. We stopped the poisonous airdrops of HDRs
(Humanitarian Daily Rations) which were rupturing as they hit the ground from 30,000
feet and spoiling quickly in the desert environment. TASK FORCE DAGGER Special
Forces teams started bringing in bags of rice instead, and everyone was happy. Of
course a Colonel in the Army who had his own private humanitarian aid project quickly
took the credit. He had never even been to Afghanistan.
Scurka and Long were on a hilltop in Kal-a-Khata when the first rounds started
impacting around them. It was 140 miles of battlefield front line trenches between the
NA and the Taliban. The only other armed Americans in the area were Master Sergeant
John Bolduc’s “TIGER 03” Special Forces A-Team. Bolduc and TIGER 03 would, by
the end of the war, be called the most significant team of the war,8 dispatching
thousands of Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists to paradise, and destroying hundreds of
tanks, artillery and armor pieces. No other force would inflict the damage on the
enemy, as did Bolduc’s team, not before, not after, not ever.
8 Speech of Colonel John Mulholland, US Embassy Compound, December 2001.
I had told Gary not to leave my side, but while I was bandaging NA soldiers and
helping the Mujahadeen sight in mortars to stop Taliban tanks from breaching the front
lines, Gary had wandered up to a hilltop to film the battle.
Long had just told Scurka they should leave the hill when the explosion sent
them both flying through the air. An unusually brave NBC producer named Kevin Sites
helped pull Scurka off the battlefield and put a tourniquet on his leg. Scurka was a
bloody mess when I got to him. Greg was tough as nails, but he had a worsening
concussion from the explosive impact. But, thanks to Sites, Scurka was alive, and
Long’s concussion didn’t start affecting him until after he made sure Scurka was safe.
Gary and Greg were medevac’d back to the states a few weeks sooner than they
planned to return. A long list of wannabe heroes tried to take credit for saving Scurka,
not the least of which was a phony Green Beret aid worker from Los Angeles who had a
penchant for claiming he was knighted by the Vatican, and, wore fake Silver Stars and
Bronze Stars at public events.9 The problem was that Sir Edward, as he liked to be
called, was about a hundred miles away at the time. There was also a mousy little
reporter from U.S.A. Today named Tim who two years later claimed he saved Scurka–
I guess an old scarf wrapped on Scurka’s leg and a bunch of screaming counted as lifesaving
medical care. The Taliban and AQ had just completely fucked up one of my best
friends, and now this was completely personal. I told Scurka to head home and I’d see
him when Afghanistan was free.
I knew this war would go fast. The Taliban were using old Soviet armor and
infantry tactics. Special Forces were using close air support (CAS) and lasers
(SOFLAM). Even outnumbered 500 to 1, the Green Berets would make mincemeat out
of the terrorists. Like then CIA Counter-Terrorism Chief Cofer Black said, “After 9/11,
the gloves were off.” That meant Special Forces could fight with no conventional
restrictions. Sergeants, the backbone of the U.S. Army, were free to control the
battlefield. No briefings, no orders, no strategy sessions; we’re dropping twelve of you
in the desert (A-Teams are 12 Green Berets, some had one or two combat controllers
assigned to work CAS missions), just kill all you can and seize as much territory as
possible. Even the best optimists at the Pentagon thought it would take 9 to 12 months.
But even they underestimated the Green Berets once they were completely unleashed,
and the Northern Alliance once they had ammunition and aircraft.
I was now alone and free to operate my own way, just like the active-duty Green
Berets. I joined the Northern Alliance as their advisor, and rode across the country–
sometimes by captured AQ SUVs, sometimes by decrepit Russian jeeps, sometimes by
barely flying helicopters, and sometimes by horse– fighting the good fight, avenging my
country, and getting to know the Afghan people I would come to love.
I did whatever it took to destroy the terrorists, whether it was protecting aid convoys,
raiding terrorist caves, escorting journalists to the front lines– at the request of President
Rabanni– to see the Mujahadeen fighting in rubber slippers and ragged clothes, driving
9 For verification and further information, contact Francis Pizzulli, Attorney- 310/451-8020. Request acopy of the Edward Artis Sworn Deposition transcript.
IV bags and medical supplies into isolated Special Forces teams during OPERATION
ANACONDA, leading Mujahadeen into battle in Nangahar, or bandaging women and
children during the Nahrin earthquake.10 Later in the war we got close to bin Laden
twice, only to be foiled by CENTCOM bureaucrats.
In November 2001 I had sent my wife an email message by satellite. I told her to take
every dime she could find or borrow and buy me combat trauma dressings because we
were overwhelmed with bullet wounds and the U.S. was not getting enough medical
supplies on the ground fast enough. She sent boxes and boxes Federal Express to
Uzbekistan, where they were driven to a secret NA airbase in Tajikistan and then sent
by chopper to me. My wife takes things literally and has learned not to question me in a
crisis– she used every dime we had, including her rent money for two months. By
Christmas she was homeless. I never knew until a month later.
In the summer of 2002 my mother died, and I returned, a few weeks late, to bury
her. I had been delayed by an operation during which we thought we were close to bin
Laden for a third time. During the war, my mother, and my wife had repeatedly shipped
clothes, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid to the Afghans. In their own way they
had been as much a part of the war as anyone.
For the next year I delivered aid to Afghanistan, thousands of books from my
mother’s library and from our family, medical supplies, clothes, and baby food. My
wife never complained, even though we were now homeless. I had come to love and
admire these rugged fighters and the Panjshir Army was now my band of brothers.
By late 2003, we were still living in my office. But my war was not over. I
helped fund a new clinic in Afghanistan with money raised by my 2001 capture of the
8mm VideoX al-Qaida Terrorist Training Tapes. Every American has seen their images
on CBS 60 Minutes II with Dan Rather, on Fox News, NBC Dateline, in Newsweek, on
the front cover of U.S. News & World Report and literally hundreds of other reports
around the world. Terrifying images of what Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida has
planned for America and are training for.
Besides relief supplies and medical clinics, I have used those licensing fees to
fund my own war against al-Qaida. That also includes paying my intelligence assets,
the same ones the FBI want, but can’t seem to buy at any price. Every news
organization pays to license them, except FOX News, who I am suing (now awaiting
appeal in the California Court of Appeals), and those license fees save people and fight
terrorism. Sort of my way of forcing the networks to be proactive and benevolent in
war they watch from the sidelines, while they rake in the dough.
10 Editor’s Note: Landing a helicopter while the ground was still shaking, Jack was the first medic to get
to people trapped in Taliban threat areas, treating hundreds of women and children– See: “Jack Does
House Calls” Associated Press, April 3, 2002. Maybe you want to actually include some sort of note in
the article text, but I wouldn’t want to have it coming from me since it is rather self-aggrandizing.
Between November 2003 and March 2004, I learned through my clandestine sources, in
the desolate regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, that new attacks were planned in the
continental United States. Because I was also in the United States, the Pentagon and the
CIA insisted I deal with my old nemesis, the FBI. The FBI handled “domestic issues”
and domestic intelligence sources. Of course I was a little confused. If the FBI was
now allowed to cross the line and operate in Pakistan and Iraq as virtual combatants,
why couldn’t the DOD and CIA operate in the U.S. to save American lives? I already
knew the official answer; Posse Comitatus (Power of the Country - restrict the force- in
other words the Army can‘t operate inside the US), E.O.s, and a stack of other laws
stopped them. Additionally, the CIA can’t “run assets” in CONUS (the Continental
United States). Legally, I had no choice. So off it was to the FBI. Hesitantly.
After four months of bureaucracy filled meetings with the FBI CT (Counter-Terrorist)
Watch Command in Washington, repeated polygraphs at the FBI’s secret Counter-
Terrorist Task Force office in Tysons Corner, Virginia– by idiots that couldn‘t even
pronounce al-Qaida correctly– one thing became overwhelmingly obvious, the FBI was
far to bureaucratic, and stupid, to stop al-Qaida.
Three years after 9/11 the FBI is still in reactive mode. They wait until
something blows up and then send investigators by the bushel to inspect the American
bodies and ask questions. They were, after all, the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
NOT the Federal Bureau of Interdiction. For seventy-five years they have been
catching bank robbers, Mafia kingpins and bad guys AFTER they commit the crime.
What America needed, and still needs, is someone to catch the terrorist before the
boom, not after the sky has already fallen.
By March 25, 2004, I simply could not take it anymore. I had given the FBI CT
Watch Command 405 captured al-Qaida documents, and after four months they didn’t
even have one-page translated yet.11 One of the documents had the plane ticket and info
on bin Laden’s money courier. Nor did the FBI even alert NSA or anyone else when I
handed them the location and phone number of al-Qaida’s #2 man. When we gave
them the location of bin Laden, they didn’t even check it for a week, and then confirmed
he had been there, but left. When I told them about a car bomb plan to attack targets in
Afghanistan with taxis, they called a briefing in Kabul and increased security, but didn’t
have a clue as to how to catch the bombers. When I transmitted the names, countries,
and descriptions of six al-Qaida terrorists that had entered the U.S. they informed me
their computers were incapable of identifying them, they needed their passport numbers.
I replied by asking them if I also needed their DNA screens and shoe sizes.
Regarding one terrorist, a top-official called me one night, and said, “Shit! We
just got more than a thousand hits in the terror data-base on one of the guys you gave
11 CBS 60 Minutes ran a comprehensive special on the FBI’s inability to translate and interpret
competently in the fight against terrorists. Further, my communications can be verified through
documents currently held by Attorney John Tiffany (973/566-9300) whom you have permission to
contact and view documents through, if a confidentiality agreement is obtained.
“Wow, that’s great. So pick him up,” I replied.
“We have no way of locating him here.”
“I thought you were the FBI?” I asked.
“Yeah, but my bosses say you’ve got to get us a hotel address or something.”
“Dude, if I knew his hotel, he’d already be dead.”
My blood pressure was rising rapidly faced with the FBI’s inability to function at even
minimal levels in the search for al-Qaida. My frustration, their stupidity, and the
politics of it all. People were going to die– Americans were going to die, and once
again, friends of mine were going to die. I packed my bags and headed back to
Afghanistan. I was determined to make a difference in a world where most people,
especially government officials, wait until the house burns down before dialing the fire
The Pentagon, and another agency, assured me that once outside CONUS
we could circumvent the FBI and they could directly support us. Like the first
time, I told my wife everything would be fine, and I would be back in a few
I told the same thing to Brent Bennett, a young, hard-charging Airborne soldier,
who had joined the Counter-Terrorist Group more than a year before. Short on
experience with only six years in the military, he was a quick learner and a tactical air
controller. Brent Bennett was not afraid of anything or anyone. That alone made him
right for the mission.
We also took Ed Caraballo, a four-time Emmy Award-winning investigative
journalist who was making a documentary about the War On Terror based on the plight
of the Northern Alliance and the significance of the 8mm VideoX al-Qaida tapes. But
now I was taking him on an actual mission. The DOD had previously asked me to take
two other well-known journalists to Afghanistan, both of which I turned down. I trusted
Ed, and that should always be the determining factor in any mission. Ed wrote the PAO
office for the CT Task Force and asked for help with visas. By the time we left he had
been fully “embedded” with us, with the full knowledge, and assistance, of the
Department of Defense.12
My Intel and operations officers stayed behind to coordinate. The rest of the
Counter-Terrorist Group team would meet me in Afghanistan where we would link up
with my Afghan Indig officers (spook-speak for indigenous military forces) that had
been with me since the war started in 2001. Once we had our Tactical Operations
Center (TOC) on line we would bring our intel assets on board. This would be a quick
easy mission. We would interdict the two terrorists we were looking for, get the
complete identities of the 36 AQ terrorists in, or headed into, the U.S., stop the taxi
bombers, and get the most recent location of bin Laden. Everything would be in the
hands of the DOD’s J-2 for Intelligence and the Undersecretary of Defense for
12 We can provide copies of Ed’s letters, and the PAO letters confirming this if needed. Again, subject
to a confidentiality clause.
Intelligence in a few weeks, and Task Force 7 would be soon be clinking cocktails at the
bar onboard a plush Virgin Atlantic 757. Homeward bound, bada-bing bada boom. The
FBI would be sucking wind again. No problem. Clean and easy. In and out.
Four months later I was lying in a pool of blood on a cold and dirty cement floor
in the basement of the Taliban’s most notorious torture chamber. The metal cuffs
restraining my hands were made by a Wisconsin company, American Handcuff
Company, stamped serial number 177079. It was an instant, perverse reminder that
this entire NDS torture operation was financed by my old chums– the FBI. The cuffs
were sparkling new. The ancient leg irons were not. They consisted of two rusted iron
bars with solid iron ankle shackles held by large Chinese padlocks. Red Chinese. My
world had come full circle again.
In spite of the excruciating pain, I was fascinated by the design. They were straight out
of the inquisition– Marquis de Sade would have admired their simplistic ingenious
design. They insured constant pain on the ankles while keeping my legs spread about
three feet apart. You could not stand, only roll. The beauty of these babies, at least
from the Taliban’s viewpoint, was that you could drag, beat, and torture your prey, and
his only response would be limited to screaming. And scream I did.
The echoes of my screams penetrated the solid concrete walls, leapt up the mud
brick fences over the tops of the Kalashnikov toting guards, and crept into the streets for
two solid days. With each pummeling my body took, each time my arms were lifted
from behind my back to above my head, each succession of blows to my temples, the
screams leapt like flames out of the underground chamber.
The funny thing was no one ever asked me anything. When you think of torture
you think of questions, interrogations, some information gathering purpose. But this
was sport. Torture just because I was a Kafir, a non-Muslim. This was their pleasure,
not their business. This was payback for Abu Ghraib, for Lynndie England’s pictures,
and for all the times they wanted to kick an American’s ass but couldn’t.
Sure, we all want to believe that James Bond really gritted his teeth and remained
painfully restrained, suave, and in-character during his torture at the hands of the North
Koreans in Die Another Day. Silent through it all– the beatings, the scorpions, the
agony, the soul searing pain– true to the image of the calm, cool, and collected secret
agent. Glaring silently and gritting his teeth as they cut the flesh from his body.
That folks, is Hollywood. It’s a little different in real life. When the torture
cranks up, so will the intensity and volume of your screams. Sooner, rather than later,
you will be hyperventilating and gasping for air. Not from the pain, but from the need
to fuel your blood curdling gut wrenching primordial screams.
You will scream for God, even if you have never called upon Him before. You
will scream “please!” and occasionally, “please, please!” And eventually you will just
scream, sometimes early in anticipation of the pain about to befall you.
And, when your antagonist walks away leaving you in a huddled mass of
battered bones and hemorrhaged eyes, you will invariably mutter “fuck you,” under
your breath. If you cannot resist the urge to assert some remaining hint of courage and
defiance, you, like me, will whisper “fuck you” before your demons exit the room,
spitting your blood on the floor for punctuation.
You will then instinctively know while your words are still in the air, that it was
a mistake. Because, regardless of how tired your punisher is, he will return, if only to
kick you two or three times before he takes another break for a cup of chai.
Curling up the best you can with iron bars between your legs– into a fetal
position– you will contemplate whether your tormentor is drinking green tea or black
tea. You will pray to God– even if you are atheist (I am not)– to deliver you from your
torturer’s whip, stick, or whatever he happens to be using at the time. All the while
flashes of vivid, yet fleeting, images of walking in Central Park with your wife will be
passing before you. You will ask God to just let you die and get it over with. Then you
will see your wife again, and your survival instincts will kick in telling you that you
must live… for another walk in Central Park.
And then you will start to think. Exactly how did I get here, from there?
“You will never defeat us.
Like the Russians, your arrogance will be your downfall ”
Taliban Defense Minister, October 2001
Just ten days before a JDAM vaporizes him
Tribal Lands, Pakistan/Afghan border
Sorry, this was written quite some time ago, but I do not have access to it at this time. It
involves a classified conversation between Ayman-al-Zawahiri (AQ #2 most wanted
terrorist) and two others members of al-Qaida. The conversation passes messages from
what is allegedly bin Laden, but no one yet knows if he dead or alive. It is a great read
into the mindset of the top level of terrorists and what they expect to achieve.
One of my agents was present when it went down, so it is written from his interview and
recollection just a short time after it occurred.
“It is the right of every man to dream heroic dreams”
Ft. Bragg/Fayetteville, NC
Zabi and Jack had been talking frequently for the last year. Every call centered
around the same subject, when was Jack returning to Afghanistan? It had been more
than a year. Not only was Zabi still waiting, so were all of Jack’s soldiers. True, Jack
had remained in constant touch with them through INMARSAT Satellite
communications, faxes, encrypted emails, and regularly through the Kabul mobile
phone network Jack had helped set up. But the boys, as Jack referred to his Afghan
Mujahadeen, needed face time. Like anyone who had come to work for Jack they were
now adrenaline junkies, and they needed a “Jack fix.”
Zabi was the worst of them all. Zabi was a complete addict. Jack was heroin,
and every time they went on a mission it was mainlining. Zabi had now been without a
fix for almost two years. Their last mission had been in June 2002. Since that time they
had been delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, working on building clinics,
supporting schools, and promoting American assistance to Afghanistan. Honorable
endeavors, and worthy causes—but not what Zabi, or Jack, were all about. They had
kept their intel net alive inside the Taliban and al-Qaida, but intel was sporadic at best,
rarely actionable, and difficult to act on with Jack 12,000 miles away. Back in the old
days, when Task Force Dagger and Task Force Saber were in full swing, Jack’s Intel net
had rivaled anything the CIA had, or could even dream of. Those days were over. As
far as Jack knew his AQ, as Special Forces referred to al-Qaida, contacts and assets had
long ago been assimilated back into their terrorist mindset, and could probably not be
trusted anymore. Jack often considered the probability that his double agents, had been
tripled, and were now working for the enemy again.
Zabi was now 23 years old. He was still immature, wild, and uncontrollable.
But, when it came to intelligence tradecraft and the spy business, Zabi was a pro, with
fifty years experience packed into those last five years. He was also the kind of man the
Agency, as the CIA was called by the old operators, would never, never employ or work
with. The Agency hated rouge agents, guys that did what they wanted, when they
wanted, the way they wanted. The Agency was made up of “career foreign officers.”
Men, and a few women, who wore Brooks Brothers suits, wingtip shoes, and drank
Cognac. Gone were the days of freewheeling, fly by the seat of your pants, risk taking
patriots who carried three pistols and two knives. Those are the men who protected our
nation from the shadows in the fifties and sixties, and seventies. Men who were born in
the fire, drama, intrigue and danger of World War II and the early days of the Cold War.
Hard fighting hard drinking former OSS operator, many who had parachuted behind
enemy lines in France, Germany, Algiers, North Africa, and Burma. Men like Colonel
Aaron Banks who infiltrated into France on an OSS, Office of Strategic Services,
Jedburgh Team, with only a radio, a pistol, and a bag full of money. In the 50’s Colonel
Bank formed the U.S. Army Special Forces, in his own vision of what kind of force
America would need to fight the jungle wars and insurgencies of the next century.
Those men became rarer and rarer as time went on, replaced by Georgetown
graduates, scholars and analysts who could wade through a stack of Soviet radio
intercepts and satellite photos and compile it into a 950 page analytical study that no
one had time to read. Granted, they were smart, even brilliant, but they wouldn’t last
ten minutes alone on a back street in Beirut.
Zabi was the kind of guy that Colonel Bank would have whole heartily
embraced. Zabi was OSS material all the way. Raw material, but the best raw material
in all of Afghanistan.
But for the new CIA, Zabi was everything they ran away from. His worst trait,
in their view, would have been his inability to follow orders, or a plan, and his penchant
for taking risks. Jack was not much different. Although Jack was twice Zabi’s age, you
would swear they were separated at birth. Both were brilliant, spontaneous, able to
make hard decisions on the fly, impervious to the stress of their environment, rational
during a disaster, irrational in personal issues, loyal to a fault, temperamental, able to
improvise instantaneously, borderline psychotic, and 100% complete absolute
They were also a team, even if they fought frequently, sometimes physically, and
they always succeeded in every mission they took on. Another important trait they both
shared was one that the U.S. Army Special Forces spent hundreds of millions of dollars
seeking out in the 1970’s. They were self-sufficient, able to operate alone and
unsupported, indefinitely. Colonel Charlie Beckwith called the ability to survive,
operate, and persevere alone, indefinitely, the single most important trait for a Special
Forces soldier. Beckwith believed that all other skills could be taught, but the unique
ability to operate, change course without direction, and reach your target without
direction, and reach your target without guidance was unique. It was a trait which you
could not acquire. Either you were born with it, or you weren’t. When Beckwith later
formed SFOD-D, Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta
Force, it was that trait which he sought out in his core of initial recruits.
The CIA had learned many things from their failure to stop 9/11, or even suspect
it before it occurred. They had learned to stop chasing a defunct threat from the former
Soviet Union, start retiring Russian linguists and start recruiting Arabic linguists, forget
billion dollar satellites for tracking terrorists, and start re-focusing on HUMINT –
Human Intelligence – a skill that had been lost in the great CIA purge of clandestine
agents (spies) in the late 70’s.
But there was one thing they still hadn’t learned, or maybe just hadn’t come to
grips with. They needed to stop hiring engineers, accountants, and analysts with
MBA’s and start recruiting snake-eating self-reliant commandos with high IQ’s that
could be trained in tradecraft. The Farm, as the CIA’s clandestine services training
wing was referred to, could train anyone to do a dead letter drop in Gorky Park or an
agent contact in Palestine. But could they teach a recruit to do it without flinching,
without hesitation, without perspiring, and without fear. Those attributes were
embedded in one’s soul before birth, they could not be trained or “drilled” into you.
You either had it or you didn’t.
Two years after 9/11, the CIA was still running half page and full-page ads in
The Economist – headlined “Possibly, the most demanding job in the world.”
Searching for “extraordinary individuals” who want “the Ultimate International Career,”
the CIA Directorate of Operations, Clandestine Service was looking for spies with a
bachelor’s degree in international affairs/business, science, or technology.
Thousands of Americans were dead, we were in full scale wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, shadow wars in Malaysia, Columbia, Indonesia, Yemen, and Bosnia.
Terrorists were blowing up shit all over the world, narco-terrorism– fueled by al-Qaida
produced opium in Eastern Afghanistan– was less than a year from hitting U.S. shores,
North Korea now had nukes, Iran was developing nukes, half the 7-11’s in America
were funneling money to Islamic terrorists, Ukraine was missing enough U-235
Uranium to turn New York, L.A., and Washington into a smoldering ash heap, Arabs
were learning to fly crop dusters to drop biological warfare payloads over Miami, RPG
rockets were sailing through the sky in virtually every zone the U.S. military was
declaring “under control,” Pakistan was selling nuclear secrets and materials to anyone
who hated us…
And the fucking CIA was still recruiting dweeb analysts and engineers as spies
and clandestine intelligence agents, who couldn’t survive one night in Harlem no less
six months in Tirkit. Yet guys like Zabi, who had been fighting the Taliban and al-
Qaida since they were twelve, and living in the remote mountains of Afghanistan
dealing with terrorists on a daily basis, and spoke five languages, couldn’t even get a
cell phone to call the CIA when they found bin Laden’s location, which was often.
Two questions came to mind; exactly what moron was running the CIA’s ad
campaign, and what fucking planet were the deputy directors of the CIA living on?
This concept does not take a rocket scientist to figure out. You’re in a Toyota
Surf SUV on a pothole dirt road at 9,000 feet above sea level in the Kut-Tangai
mountains of Afghanistan when six turbaned men with foot long beards and dark black
inset eyes brandishing Klashnikov’s – the Afghan name for Russian AK-47’s –
surround you and your afghan guide/interpreter. Does the guys who reads the
International Journal of Scientific Studies pull out his slide ruler and proceed to give
these cave dwelling cretins a dissertation on Stephen Hawke’s Theory of black holes
and anti-matter. Or, does the former Green Beret sergeant who grew up in Tennessee
shooting woodchucks, who reads Men’s Health, pull out his radio and proceed to
explain, while looking up at the sky, that he’s lost, but the B-52 bomber above the
clouds has pinpointed his location and he’ll be leaving soon. I vote for the Green Beret
buck sergeant who has already clicked off the safety on his weapon before he even
stopped the Surf.
Bluffing takes nerves of steel, balls, brains, and a tinge of insanity, more than
Zabi had it all.
Zabi wanted to work for the Agency. It was his dream, to work for the
Americans that had liberated his country. To help track down, hunt, and kill, the al-
Qaida terrorists that had killed his beloved Commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Massoud had been assassinated by al-Qaida terrorists posing as journalists, on
September 9, 2001, just two before the World Trade Center towers came crashing down
While most Americans have no idea who Massoud was, nor the significance of
the assassination in the scheme of al-Qaida’s global plan, the significance and timing
was not lost on Jack.
COMPLETE INSERT HERE ABOUT MASSOUD-KHALILI- THE BOMB,
(NOT IN CAMERA, IN BATTERY BELT) AND THE CIA’S MEETING WITH
MASSOUD ONE MONTH BEFORE. CAN BE PULLED FROM MY HUNT
Massoud’s death and 9/11 were the catalysts for a bond that would bring Zabi
and Jack together for three straight years of war, and for the rest of their lives. It was
also the bond that forged an unbeatable alliance between the Green Berets of Task Force
Dagger and Massoud’s Northern Alliance. An alliance and a partnership that ultimately
brought about the fall of Kabul in just two short months and the complete defeat of the
Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists in just six months.
In Afghanistan, for over a thousand years, one concept remains unwavering –
your friend is my friend, your enemy mine.
The literal translation is clearer – “My enemies friend is my enemy; my enemies
enemy is my friend” – at least until the war is over. Then all bets were off.
It was with this intimate understanding of this fundamental Afghan concept that
Jack forged relationships in Afghanistan that he would need to engage the enemies of
While many of his relationships forged during the war had become distant as the
political and warfare map of Afghanistan changed, the relationship with Zabi and Jack’s
small group of Panjshir commandos had withstood the test of time. Massoud’s Panjshir
soldiers were the best of the best. Rugged, hard, seasoned, and most of all loyal. The
Panjshir was deep in the heart of the Hindu Kush Mountains in Northern Afghanistan.
It had never been occupied, never been breached into the core of the Panjshir, and had
exacted a terrifying toll on its invaders. Hannibal had lost tens of thousands of men
trying to take the Panjshir. Alexander the Great had occupied it briefly, just long
enough to build the ancient roads that would be the killing grounds of his soldiers
ambushed from the cliffs above. The Soviets drove their armor columns into the
Panjshir, only to have General Haji Wassi drop ten thousand tons of rocks on them,
sending their T-72 tanks careening into the rivers below, where they still lay overturned
in the water, rusting as a reminder to all those that might think they can penetrate the
Most villages in the Panjshir are inaccessible by road. You must walk up the
mountainside on small cliff-side trails to reach them. Zabi’s village is one such place.
Crossing a small rickety suspension bridge over the Panjshir River you step onto a wide
clearing covered with boulders. None of them are large enough to provide protection
from the thousands of bullets fired from the overlooking hills upon any uninvited
During the Soviet occupation of the 1980’s, the Mujahadeen would fill the
branches of the trees lining the river with the hanging corpses of Soviet soldiers who
dared to venture into the Panjshir Valley. There they would be left to rot, hanging with
a shovel tied in their hands. Apparently it was a reminder to bring your own shovel if
you wanted to be buried.
Bazerak was legendary among the Mujahadeen. It was a place where great
warriors had been born for a thousand years. Zabi’s father had been one, severely
wounded in battle, Massoud had relieved him from further combat duty. However,
when he insisted on continuing in the army, he was made a driver.
In spite of its remote mountain location, Bazerak actually had power, not much,
but enough to supply at least one or two light bulbs in each house. Generators had been
salvaged from destroyed Soviet tanks, then wired together and turned by makeshift
windmill type devices submerged in a mountain stream. During the Soviet and Taliban
days the power lever was manned religiously from sunset to sunrise. As soon as the
radio alert came warning of approaching aircraft or helicopters the Panjshir villagers
immediately went to “Blackout State.” Still, the Soviet and Taliban Air Forces had
occasional success in targeting a village. Mujahadeen soldiers were rarely hit, they
were in other areas fighting. The bombs would kill their families. The Soviets
mistakenly thought this would break their will to fight. It had the opposite affect – a
soldier who has lost anything worth living for becomes a far more dangerous adversary.
This was the environment that forged Zabi from childhood.
Zabi was like most Panjshiri’s. Fiercely independent, completely isolationist,
and ready to fight and kill all invaders, all foreigners, all threats to the purity and
sanctity of the Panjshir. Somehow Americans had been accepted as an ally, possibly
even a brother, of the Panjshiri’s. Jack certainly had. More than once an Afghan
soldier would question Jack’s authority, only to be slapped by Zabi and told Jack was
from Bazerak – in other words, don’t fuck with this American.
“Blow me… ”
October 2001 Talking to Ayman al-Zwahiri
“Asalimanikum,” the female voice answered in Arabic. She was answering a
Thurya Satellite phone in Iran.
“This is Mohammed Kadir, may I speak to my brother?” The man asked in
Arabic, the language in which the entire conversation would take place.
“Your brother is not here, he has left a few days again and will not return,” the
female on the Thurya Satellite phone said in a guarded and convincing tone.
“Allah Akbar, zendabot god wa de,” the man replied. God is Great.
“Wait one moment, my cousin will speak to you.”
The caller’s “brother” was there. The question, response, and reply was exactly as it
should have been to make contact with Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s number two
man. Al-Zawahiri was nswering a phone in Madrash, Iran. Al-Zawahiri
It was a fairly normal day. Viktoria had been up at 7am, showered, put her
make-up, shorts, and track shoes, and already walked thirty dogs. Jack had slept in,
having worked until 3am.
The building was a non-descript, one story commercial brick building in
downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina. It was 10,000 square feet. One side housed
The Ultimate Pet Resort, a high-class pampered pet resort for boarding very spoiled
dogs, and finicky cats. A bright hot pink sign hung over the entrance. Inside were 75
“condos”, tiled floors, two exotic playgrounds, a grooming salon, Caribbean resort
music, a half dozen cute girls providing “room service” for the guests, and Viktoria
frequently reminded customers, “no cages.”
From the outside the entire building looked like one big pet resort, surrounded by
a huge outdoor playground. Upon closer observation you would notice that the two
windows on the right side were black bulletproof glass, and the right doors had a small,
in fact tiny, sign that read “No Admittance.” That door had a triple lock entry that
always remained secured. While customers and their pets were constantly coming and
going from the Pet Resort, visitors were far and few between on the other side.
You could knock all day long without an answer. Three covert concealed
cameras monitored everyone that even passed by briefly. The only rear door was 3 inch
thick steel with two large steel beams sealing it.
This was Jack’s lair. The headquarters of the U.S. Counter-Terrorist Group.
Counterr Group, as those in the know referred to it, had been in existence for more than
25 years. It was the oldest “private” counter-terrorist organization in the world.
Formed in 1978, Counterr Group originally specialized in training for hostage rescue
missions. It was headquartered in upstate New York on a 200-acre private airport,
complete with a dozen state-of-the-art live fire training ranges, rappelling towers,
aircraft, bus, and train assault ranges, and an impressive staff of Green Berets, Delta
Force, CIA, and SMU (Special Mission Unit) commandos. Even the British SAS,
Special Air Service, loaned Counterr Group instructors on a rotating basis.
Counterr Group flourished in the 1980’s, an environment where plausible
deniability was the modus operandi of the Reagan administration. Counterr Group
operators worked in Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and
Eastern Europe. Officially they only provided training and instruction, but unofficially,
they advised, led, and conducted a variety of real world covert, and often clandestine,
By 1992, the need for Counterr Group was virtually non-existent. The U.S. had
spent billions creating, building, and equipping a variety of Special Operations schools
and forces that eliminated the need for organizations such as Peregrine, the International
Defense Development Corporation, Counterr Group, and a few others.
Counterr Group was unable to metamorphosis into mainstream defense support
services like KBR, DYNCORP, Vennell, Bechtel, and others who derived their core
business from logistical support and construction of defense facilities. Counterr Group
was comprised of shooters, not businessmen, and it found itself on the dust heap of
That is until bin Laden took it off the storage shelf.
Now Counterr Group was operating full time. Incredibly small, less than a dozen
people. Incredibly under-funded, a budget of less than $200,000 per year. Incredibly
secret, nobody knew what the purpose was, not the people that worked there, not the
U.S. government, not anyone, except Jack. Even the director, Thomas Bumback, a
retired Special Forces intelligence officer didn’t really know what they were doing most
of the time.
They didn’t have money, they didn’t have satellites, aircraft, or support, and their
sanction was shaky at best. But they did have HUMINT. Exceptional, even staggering
HUMINT. Three times in two years Counterr Group had positively targeted bin Laden,
only to have bureaucrats fuck it up.
One thing was clear to everyone in Counterr Group. The only target, the only
goal, was al-Qaida.
Inside the offices were maps of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran. Elaborate
matrix charts tracked details, last known locations, and personal characteristics of the
top twenty al-Qaida terrorists, and a few dozen other HVT’s (High Value Targets).
Why they were doing it, how they were doing it, and whom they were doing it
for, no one knew. But they were doing it none-the-less, and God and Country was
enough of a reason to keep them all going, even though no one was getting paid. For all
of Jack’s attributes and for all of his flaws – which were not few – there was one
undoable rare quality that rose above all others. Jack was infectious. He infected you
with enthusiasm, bravado, skills, knowledge, honor, and most of all sense of mission. A
few weeks with Jack and you found your life in shambles, your rent unpaid, your
children abandoned, and divorce papers on your doorstep. None of it mattered –
because above all else, your entire body, soul, and spirit, was gorged with a sense of
being and clear understanding of being and clear understanding of purpose of life unlike
anything else you ever, even remotely, felt before. Jack invited you into his world for a
look, then gave you a taste of his world, then sucked you in for good.
It was simple really. He just placed a red pill and a blue pill there for you the
decision was yours. Take the red pill and go home, take the blue pill and abandon all
that you had ever known, ever loved, ever lived for. Jack invented the Matrix scene
long before Keanau Reeve had ever donned a black trench coat.
It is often said that the most important trait of leadership is to infect people with
your belief, determination, and drive to reach a goal. No one was better at that then
Today was proof.
“Counter-Terrorist Group, good morning.”
“Is Jack there?” the caller requested in a mid-eastern accent but good English
none the less.
“He is on another call right now.”
“I really need to speak to him,” the man insisted.
“I’m sorry, that is impossible.”
“I’ve been calling for two weeks trying to speak to Jack, what is this sheeet?” the
man was clearly upset, and quite irritated.
“Look, Jack has been traveling for the last few weeks, today is his first day back
in the office can you please call back?”
Viktoria heard the exchange from across the office, “who is that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” the girl said putting her hand over the phone.
“Well find out!”
The receptionist turned her attention back to the caller, “excuse me…” she was
cut off abruptly.
“This is Zabi, fucking Zabi.”
“It’s Zabi,” she called out to Viktoria.
“I’ll take that call,” Viktoria ordered, “put him on hold.”
“Please hold for Viktoria.”
“Zabi, this is Viktoria, how are you?”
“I am not good, I want to speak to my brother.”
“If he’s not off the phone in two minutes, I’ll get him off the phone.”
“I’m not waiting two minutes.”
“Ok, where can he call you back?”
“You know Viktoria, I have to tell you something.”
“Go ahead Zabi,” Viktoria answered.”
“I have been waiting for one man for two years. We have all been waiting, my
country has been waiting. What should I do?” Zabi had not been waiting two years, but
he had been waiting for a year, and it had been almost eighteen months since they did a
mission against al-Qaida together.
“Zabi, I don’t know what to say.”
“Tell me he is coming back to Afghanistan.”
“He is, I just don’t know when,” Viktoria paused, she could sense the extreme
frustration level in Zabi’s voice, “hold on a minute.”
Putting Zabi on hold she went into the room where Jack was on a conference
call. “Zabi is on the phone.”
“Tell him I’ll call him back.”
“I think you better talk to him, he really sounds upset.”
Jack took the call. He and Zabi talked for about fifteen minutes and everything
seemed fine. Jack hung up the phone promising to call him in a few days.
“He just needed a Jack fix,” Jack said as he went back to his conference call.
“Boy do I know that feeling,” Viktoria said smiling.
Three days later Zabi called again, this time Jack got right on the phone.
“Ok, are you feeling better?”
“Jack, we need to do a secret call,” Zabi said abruptly.
“Yes, urgently, right now,” Zabi responded.
“It will take thirty minutes to set-up, maybe fifteen.”
“I will be waiting,” Zabi said.
“How long before you are ready?”
“I’ve been ready for two years,” came Zabi’s smart-ass reply.
“Zabi wants to go secure,” Jack told Bumback moving swiftly over to the
INMARSAT Satellite system. He grabbed the black aluminum briefcase and went out
the back door into the park. Pulling out a compass he oriented the satellite antenna to
hit the Mid-Atlantic COMSAT Geostationary Satellite. Zabi would have already set his
up to hit the Indian Ocean satellite. Next Jack adjusted the antenna’s angle based on
location and elevation.
Powering up the INMARSAT four bars indicated a direct link. He would need
five bars for a reliable secure link without dropout. Two minutes later, after a few
minor adjustments, five bars appeared on the receiver handset.
Jack dialed Zabi.
“Encryption activated.” NOTE: describe scene more here
“What have you got?”
“Six, possibly seven al-Qaida on the way to America.”
“How good is this intel?”
“It is from our agents.”
“Laurel and Hardy,” Zabi responded. That got Jack’s attention. Laurel and
Hardy were the code names for two of Jack’s assets deep inside al-Qaida. Their Intel
had a sterling record of accomplishment (track record), they were the real deal.
Intelligence assets were rated with letters and numbers A was the best and in terms of
trustworthy and loyalty. F sucked. 1 was the best in terms of intelligence provided, 6
sucked. Laurel and Hardy were B-1, arguable A-1 in Jack’s opinion, even though they
were inside al-Qaida, and enemy combatants for all practical purposes. Jack could
never quite figure out what their motives were, it certainly was not money. They asked
for little, and received little, barely enough to survive on. They had worked for Jack
since the days of Tora Bora in December 2001. But for the last twelve months they had
went dormant. Jack had written them off long ago, as either dead, or doubled –
meaning switched back to the bad guys again.
Now they were back on the radar screen with, if true, extraordinary intelligence.
“I thought we lost those guys long ago,” Jack said.
“They never stopped working for us Jack. They just didn’t have anything big
enough to break security for.”
Great, so what do we know?”
“We know there are six, possibly seven AQ terrorists that are on the way to the
United Sates. We know a few may already be there. We know all their names and
countries of birth…” Zabi was interrupted.
“The names on their passports they’re using to get into the U.S., or their real
names, or they’re alias names, or their al-Qaida names?” Jack knew all of these were
different. Al-Qaida terrorists changed names faster than Jennifer Lopez changed
husbands. They used a single name to identify themselves among the al-Qaida network,
but their real names, alias names, and travel names are all different. Add to that the fact
that they all had “Mohammed” somewhere in each of their names, except their “famous
name,” and you had a complex, confusing nightmare that would even strain an NSA
Cray super-computer to keep track. The important name for tracking and finding them,
was what they referred to as “famous by the name of.” That was usually a single or
sometimes double name by which they were known throughout the terrorist network.
But they could also have a second “famous by” name which they used inside a specific
terrorist operation cell, for a specific terror mission.
“Right now we have their al-Qaida names, but we will be able to get their
Afghan passport names.”
“What do you mean Afghan Passport names?”
“They had Afghan passports issued under false names.”
“When, and why would they get Afghan passports? Those won’t help them get
into the U.S.”
“They got the passports a few weeks ago. Their plan is to send a few people in
through Canada, which routinely gives Afghan people visas. The others will take the
Afghan passports back into Pakistan, get Paki passports, go to Europe, and get new
passports from their agents there.
“Zabi, this is so fucking complicated, how can we possibly expect to track and
find these guys?”
“Jack we can do it.”
“Impossible – we have names that won’t even be their names in a week, might
not be their names now, and probably never were their fucking names.”
“We have pictures….”
“WHAT?” Zabi had immediately gotten Jack’s attention.
“We have them now?”
“We are getting them.”
“Ok, now you’ve got my attention.”
“We can stop these guys Jack, you and I can stop them.”
“Well, were going to need some help; when can you transmit initial names?”
Zabi ran down a list of seven names, approximate ages, and country of birth and
basic description. Jack read it back for confirmation.
“Do we know their target?”
“Not yet, but I will meet our agents tonight in the mountains.”
“Great, be careful. Call me as soon as you get more info. Tell Laurel and Hardy
“We can get these guys Jack,” Zabi said ever so seriously.
“I hope so. Good luck. I’ve got to get on a plan.”
“Bye brother,” Zabi clearly loved Jack.
“Bye.” Jack hung up the phone and hoped this was real not just a ploy to get him
back to Afghanistan.
Over the next five days Zabi and Jack stayed in communication daily. They were
developing intelligence quickly, but not actionable intelligence. By the end of the week
they knew more, but not enough. They knew there were seven AQ terrorists on the
way. They knew the targets were six U.S. cities. But it really boiled down to what
Donald Rumsfeld once said, which the press considered stupid. Rumsfeld was not
stupid; he was straightforward and honest. When it came to terrorists, their methods,
and the intelligence war against them, the press were the ones that were stupid.
“There are things we know, that is to say known things. There are known
unknowns, that is to say things we know we don’t know, and there are unknowns, that is
to say that there are things we don’t know we don’t know.” (Note: check this quote and
make sure it is exact – I wrote it from memory).
After ten days of constant contact with Zabi and our agents inside the AQ, Jack
had all three “Rumsfeld Intel sets.”
First there were “the knowns” – they knew bin Laden’s al-Qaida network had
sent in six or seven terrorists already. They knew there might be thirty-six. They knew
that there were six targets.
Then there were “the known unknowns” – that was to say they knew there were
36 terrorists, but they didn’t know the 36 names or identities. They knew there were six
targets, but they had no idea what those six targets were. They knew thirty-six terrorists
were entering the United States but they did not know how, when, or where.
And then, there were “the unknown unknowns” – Jack and his boys could work
hard, gather intelligence, and brainstorm to come up with different scenario’s,
possibilities, probabilities, and potential answers to the first two categories. But how do
you focus on unknown unknowns. The list could be more than a thousand possibilities.
Were there another 36 on another mission? Military or civilian targets, this year, or
next year – the 9/11 plan took more than two years – hostage taking? Bombs?
Chemical warfare? Biological weapons? Nukes? Arabs? American Muslims? Funded
by bin Laden, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran? The list went on and on.
And then there were the two or three things that would not make it on even the
most comprehensive list assembled by a hundred of the best intelligence analysts at
Langley. Those were the wild cards, the unknown unknowns – things we did not have a
clue to either the answer or the question. These were critical factors that if discovered
could interdict and stop the terrorist plot. And if not discovered, could bring down more
buildings and/or kill thousands of more Americans.
Only one thing could uncover the missing questions, and ultimately the answers
to those elusive questions – HUMINT – Human Intelligence. That was the forté of Zabi
and Jack, developing and assembling HUMINT and turning it into actionable
It didn’t take Jack long to develop a mission concept. He brought in his
incredibly small tight-knit group of Intel sergeants, support personnel, hunters, and
killers. For now, everyone would concentrate on Intel. Priorities were listed. Russian
nuke smuggling documents, AQ HVT (High Value Target) dossiers, files, and charts,
and everything related to Iraq was to be put in temporary storage. There was an
immediate CONUS (Continental United States) threat to American civilians. Almost
everyone had lost friends on 9/11. The air was somber, serious, and charged with stress.
“We need to fire off an initial SITREP to the DOD,” Tom Bumback suggested.
“Right – some unknown, vaguely identified, Arab psychos are going to blow up
six of something, someday.”
“Hey, it’s a start,” Bumback answered.
“Lets wait a few days until we can narrow this down, cross out T’s and dot our
I’s,” Jack explained. “I don’t want a Chicken Little paint job on this by the FBI. If they
want to play Chicken Little with their bullshit terror alerts let em’, lets stand above
“But let’s be ready. Mary, I want Rumsfeld, Boykin, Shoonmaker, “L”, and the
CT Task Force on the commo wall, every number, fax, Airborne address, and direct
office extension listed, and big enough to read from ten feet away. And get the routing
codes for Boykin from the National Command Communications Center at the
(Note: this last page might need better rewrite – written while half asleep.)
NOTE: We jump way ahead now to an overview of the next six months which
has taken from the article I wrote in 2004. So this is real rough and just for
reference. I have not written anything between January 2004 and July 2004
because I have been concerned that it could fall into the hands of someone else.
To this day I have never told anyone the story of what happened between January
through July 2004. There is a record of it hidden in the mountains of Afghanistan
which can be recovered at the appropriate time. These are my rough notes in a
very rough overview:
Acting on intelligence developed since November 2003 and gathered by our Afghan
assets, Task Force 7 was set up as an American/Afghan Counter-Terrorist team. The
intention was to work directly with the Northern Alliance. Regular military and activeduty
personnel were now prohibited from working with the Northern Alliance by a
classified State Department directive to the Pentagon. “Task Force 7” conflicted with
the designation of an Iraq task force, so we were now named Task Force Saber 7.
Just three days before, four Generals, three Karzai officials, two Ministers,13 and one
Ambassador (at an embassy, not in a pear tree), were saying my entire team deserved to
be awarded the country’s highest medal. In four daring, swift, and dangerous raids, we
had captured five confirmed14 terrorists that were about to assassinate key leaders,
including a presidential candidate (Qanooni) in order to spark a civil war and derail the
election. Not only had we stopped the assassinations, we also stopped explosive rigged
fuel tankers from turning the U.S. Bagram Airbase into a flaming, grand scale repeat of
the 1983 Marine barracks bombing that murdered 244 American Marines.
It was called Operation ACME. We nicknamed the mission “RoadRunner,” and we
were looking for “Wily Coyote.” The following information was derived from the
“Sensitive Secret” OFR (Original Field Report) sent to Department of Defense
headquarters in Washington. Our first operational overview had been transmitted to the
Pentagon shortly after we hit the ground in April 2004.
Our final operational overview was transmitted on June 30, 2004 and carried the rather
serious subject line as: “Al-Qaida & Hezb-i-Islami Bomb Plot to Kill Fahim, Qanooni,
Abdullah Abdullah, Foreign and US Ambassadors and Detonate Fuel Trucks in US and
The OPERATION ACME “OFR” stated, “It is commonly known that terrorist
insurgents financially backed by al-Qaida and bin Laden, and working with Gulbideen
13 Both Yunis Qanooni- Education Minister, and Marshall Mohammed Fahim- Defense Minister
14 The Afghan CIA and National Security Council confirmed they were terrorists, as did American intel
sources, as did Judge Bakhtyari when he announced in open court, “Ok, we accept they are terrorists,
we know they are terrorists.”
Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami party, are doing everything they can to disrupt the first
National elections in Afghanistan in September.”
In May 2004, we captured Mullah Sherajan. Sherajan was the Chief of Taliban
Intelligence Department 5, responsible for terrorism, sabotage, subversion, and writing
Night Letters against coalition forces to incite rebellion and civil war. He admitted that
he had been with Osama bin Laden in December 2001 when bin Laden escaped by
helicopter from Tora Bora. He had a message from Taliban leader Mullah Omar in his
pocket, along with phone numbers to ISI/al-Qaida liaisons. He also agreed to change
his avocation and go to work for the United States. This was a major coup for us and
the operations room erupted into cheers and high fives the moment the Afghan CIA
confirmed his identity. Roughly 12 hours later we were delivering “the package”
(spook-speak for handing over a prisoner) to an armored TF 180 convoy of paratroopers
on a deserted stretch of desert road under the starlight, seven clicks south of Bagram.
The ACME OP report also stated that six weeks later, “[o]n June 19, 2004, Task Force
Saber 7, received an emergency tip from an informant who provided the license plate
number of a bus carrying one of the prime bombers from Laghman to Kabul to start the
attacks. That man was Ghulamsaki. The FBI has been actively searching for
Ghulamsaki for five months. In a high-speed race to interdict the bus, Ghulamsaki was
arrested on Jalalabad Road by Task Force Saber 7, [with the Afghan MOD, and NA.]”
When we nabbed him he gave us a fake name and said he never heard of anyone named
Ghulamsaki. Then I found the Red Cross letter in his pocket from his brother, an al-
Qaida operative currently in GITMO, Cuba. I turned to Brent, Ed, and the crew,
“Jack… pot.” At first Ghulamsaki insisted he was an innocent shopkeeper in Kabul.
Two days later Ghulamsaki confessed on videotape to his involvement in the bomb ring
and led us to another of his co-conspirators. Ghulamsaki admitted that his specific job
was to kill Vice-President (and Minister) Fahim, Minister Qanooni, and “all the leaders
of the Jamiat party.”
The OTR laid it all out, “[o]perating on intelligence provided by Ghulamsaki, Task
Force Saber 7 raided a house on the outskirts of Kabul, with Serajan being arrested three
days after the bus raid on Jalalabad Road. From that raid on June 22 at Serajan’s Kabul
safehouse, rare Alpha 1X2 (similar to TNT) explosives and Aluminum Magnesium
incendiary explosives were found as well as other bomb making materials, switches and
ammunition. ISAF German EOD teams working with the Swedish Liaison Team were
called in by Task Force Saber 7. The explosives being used, while known about by
ISAF explosives experts, had not been discovered before, and the dogs had not been
trained to detect them.” At my direction, we turned over the detonators, explosives, and
the gas tank to ISAF EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) teams so that their dogs
could be quickly trained to detect these explosives (during our trial ISAF would deny
taking possession of these, and after we played the video in court, they finally fessed
up).15 Serajan’s taxi was moved to the ISAF EOD range and tested positive for the
presence of explosives by German Bomb Dogs, Gizmo and Nina. Unfortunately, during
the raid, Sabir, the ringleader and a top al-Qaida terrorist, who was staying with
Serajan, escaped over the back wall of the compound.
Page 2 of the 12-page report stated that interviews with “Serajan yielded a great deal of
intelligence about the plot, the chain of command leading to Gulbideen Hekmatyar and
bin Laden, methods of financing, and targets. Serajan also identified a unique plan to
destroy the heavily fortified US and ISAF compounds. Loosely based on the Marine
Barracks bombing in Beirut, Serajan’s cell was to place super-incendiary explosive
charges on fuel trucks headed into Bagram Air Base and ISAF facilities. The charges
would be placed and the trucks driven into US bases. Serajan insisted that the trucks
would be exploded before they entered Bagram Air Base, but this was determined
through collateral intelligence to be untrue.”
How did we get Ghulamsaki and Serajan to turn? Did we dangle them upside down and
use them as ashtrays, as the press has so frequently reported? No, that crap does not
work. Using deception tactics, such as convincing Serajan that others not found were
already in custody, and using face-off techniques (having the terrorists confront each
other), sleep deprivation from non-stop questioning (I drank a lot of coffee), non-stop
Melissa Etheridge music (they hate it- I love it), promises of money and a job (I hated
that- they loved that), and the threat of allowing Afghans to do the interrogation (no one
likes that), Serajan led the team to where explosives had been hidden by Sabir, his
leader. More importantly, Serajan provided information that led to the capture of
Serajan’s terror cell leader, Malikyar, just two short days later.
We knew that with Ghulamsaki and Serajan in custody, the rest of the cell would scatter
like rats. Time was running out. On the night of June 24, 2004, after briefing Minister
Qanooni, several Ambassadors, the DOD, and the Afghan CIA to the threat, we made
two separate attempts to raid Malikyar’s house. Both were deemed too dangerous to
execute because they presented a Mogadishu like scenario. The moment I saw the area
I knew it would present major problems. The streets were dark and narrow with high
walls. It was impossible to turn around or turn at all, you couldn’t even back-up. The
area was a perfect linear ambush site for us in this al-Qaida controlled neighborhood.
We were expecting RPG rockets to scream down the road at eye level any second. It
was totally intense. Zero cover. Zero concealment. Zero defense. One hundred
percent stress. Brent and my Afghans wanted to hit the house. Ed wanted more body
armor. I wanted no casualties. The mission was scrubbed.
15 John Tiffany and my wife can give you the name an number of a German TV producer that can verify
several German ISAF officers made public statements that we were the most professional and
competent people they worked with during the entire time they were in Afghanistan.
The next morning we hit Malikyar’s terrorist compound shortly before 0600 hours.
Malikyar was having a meeting over chai with seven other men.
This raid was assisted by Delagha, Minister Qanooni’s Chief of Security, and an elite
Panjshir bodyguard team sent to act as a protective detail force for Task Force Saber
after the raid and during the 14 hour search of the compound. The report sent to the
Pentagon stated: “also arrested in that raid was Malikyar’s two brothers, Aserlhaq, who
works at Kabul airport as an investigator and is now known to have the responsibility of
placing bombs on airplanes, such as Fahim and Qanooni’s planes and using remotely
detonated mines to destroy coalition aircraft.”
The trouble would come with the next paragraph of the report, which levied serious
charges against a Karzai appointee, by stating; “Mawlawi Sidiq is a chief in the court
system, who is responsible for recruiting terrorists and arranging access to government
officials to be assassinated. Documents and photographs obtained during the raid
irrefutably link Sadiq and his brothers to Hekmatyar’s highest level, and provide
extensive evidence to their meetings and coordination with both Hekmatyar and bin
Laden. It is believed that Sadiq is at the operational planning level but that is
unconfirmed at this point. Malikyar and other members of the bomb cell confessed that
they get their explosives primarily from two al-Qaida bomb makers, both named Noor
Mohammad, one in Logar and one in Kabul.”
To us, it seemed like a no-brainer. Sidiq had already done ten years in prison for
subversion against the pre-Taliban government. He was released by the Taliban, and
then promoted to a high-level official. This is indisputable. Now Sidiq, turns up as a
Religious Punishment Judge in Karzai’s Supreme Court.
Each of the three brothers had false identification and false names (just like Ghulamsaki
and Serajan) when we first questioned them. Extensive information about ISAF
facilities and about the entire terrorist cell was uncovered during the raid. The Swedish
ISAF Liaison Team had been an invaluable asset to us during the search and provided
area security during the raid. Only one mistake occurred—the result was that a critical
terrorist mobile phone, along with a few hundred dollars, and “some jewelry,” ended up
missing when the local police were left alone in a room. Of course, later on, we would
be accused of theft.
Sidiq would also later tell an Afghan Court, and a slew of reporters, that we had
mistreated the harem of women at his house. The reality was that we never dealt with
the Afghan women. We requested from General Babajan, the Kabul Police Chief, and
were provided with, a female national police detective to speak to the women. My
people were never allowed contact with Afghan women. I had learned a long time ago
that a foreigner should not even look in the direction of an Afghan woman, unless you
wanted RPG rockets to start flying through the air.
The terror plan was complex and violent. Their ultimate goal, through instability and
civil war, was to make room for the al-Qaida backed Hezb-i-Islami party and to insure
Hekmatyar could seize the presidency. Using taxi’s made to look disabled on the side
of the road and loaded with explosive rigged petrol tanks, the terrorists planned to block
the motorcades of their targets. This method of attack is used by Hezbollah and Hamas
in the mid-east. It was also well-documented in the 8mm VideoX al-Qaida tapes I
captured in 2001.
Besides Qanooni and Fahim, other prime targets included the Corps Commanders of the
Northern Alliance and Ministry of Defence; Generals Atta, Gulhaider, Daoud, Hazrat
Ali, and others. All of these people were close friends of America and fought with
American Special Forces during the war. All of them were ordered killed by Osama bin
Laden. All of them just happened to be my friends.
The DOD’s ability to move fast and counter a threat as compared to the FBI was tested
by this paragraph in the report; “To further spread panic and in attempt to drive US and
Coalition forces from Afghanistan, Serajan confessed that remotely detonated bombs
would be placed in fuel trucks bound for,” Bagram, ISAF, and other US military
installations. Within one hour of notifying the Pentagon, Bagram’s General Franklin L.
“Buster” Hagenbeck was ordered to delay the entry of all tankers and trucks into the
base until further notice.
We worked closely with Afghan officials before and during every raid, and they were at
the highest levels; the Afghan National Security Council, all of the NA Corps
Commanders, Amniat (CIA) intelligence officers, and national police chiefs. Everyone
had representatives standing by for, and showing up after, each raid.
On June 29, 2004, the brother of Minister Qanooni stated in a three hour private
meeting, that Task Force Saber 7 did not just save two lives (the Minister and Marshall
Fahim), but the lives of “25 million people in what would have been a bloody civil war
had any of the assassinations occurred.”
As it turned out, one of the captured terrorists (Malikyar) had an office right next door
to Minister Qanooni. While no bombs were found in or around the Minister’s office, it
was clear that the groundwork was being laid to set them in the near future. We
continued to try and locate the remote bombs set at the airport.
Attached to the OPERATION ACME report was our chart outlining the entire terror
cell identifying who was captured and who was still at large. We succeeded in
uncovering the terror cell where others failed because we worked with and trusted the
Northern Alliance Mujahadeen that fought with Special Forces from the very beginning
of the War on Terror.
On January 27, 2004, Canadian ISAF Corporal Jaime Brendan Murphy, age 26, of the
3rd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, was killed on Darlaman Road in Kabul.16 His
Afghan interpreter was also killed, and three Canadian soldiers were wounded. ISAF
had already closed the investigation with no leads, saying it was “the work of a lone
suicide bomber.” That myth was now blown out of the water. Murphy’s murder was
part of an al-Qaida operation.
During the course of our investigation, one of our terrorists confirmed that it had
not been a suicide bombing and the dead bomber was in fact a member of their cell.
The bomb's detonator had malfunctioned, prematurely setting off the explosion and
killing the terrorist as he threw the explosive onto Murphy’s jeep. We now had
Murphy’s other killers in custody. It was On June 27, 2004—four months to the day.
We then notified the Pentagon and the Canadian government.
The report ended with a final “Analysis and Opinion” by stating; “AQ terrorists
assassinated Massoud, and if another member of Massoud’s family or party is killed,
there will be war that all of the US and Coalition military might well be powerless to
prevent, just as the Russians could never defeat them. We defeated the Taliban because
they were a regular army, and because the Northern Alliance Mujahadeen were with us.
If this al-Qaida plot had succeeded, one million Mujahadeen would have taken up a
guerrilla war against the Pashtun tribes, ISAF, and all foreigners that would have made
the Iraq resistance look pale by comparison. This operation was successful only
because a small group of Americans worked closely and hand in hand with our old
allies from the war. America must work with our Northern Alliance friends, the people
that fought with us and are loyal to us—we cannot forsake them.” I knew this part of
our report would send the Department of State into a tizzy (remember that “Dear John”
letter they sent to the NA). In retrospect I should have left the last sentence off.
While we continued to chase this new al-Qaida and Hezb-i-Islami coalition, the
security situation in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate. According to assets inside
the terrorist organizations, bin Laden and Hekmatyar issued death warrants for the
members of Task Force Saber 7 and it was clear they were actively seeking us.17 The
hunters became the hunted, which, if it had only been the terrorists, would have allowed
us to engage the bad guys quicker and more directly. Unfortunately, we were also being
hunted by the FBI, who should have been hunting the damn terrorists instead.
We were once again close to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and bin Laden, both on the
most wanted terrorist list, and we were about to raid two bin Laden funded and
Pakistani ISI supported bomb factories. ISI is the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence
16 See Canadian Forces Combat Camera website at www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca/find_e.asp
17 One of our SUVs was machine-gunned by a taxi leaving Fahim’s neighborhood one night. We can
supply pictures of the bullet holes and damage resulting from our subsequent pursuit. The photos also
show ISAF chalk marks and ruler tape from their investigation later that night.
Directorate. The American government says Pervez Musharraf and the ISI are helping
us. Sorry, I don’t see it that way. I see them double-crossing us and lying to us on a
daily basis. I see them as just another evil empire, which we’re nice to because they
have nukes. They are, after all, the father of the Taliban. America was just the rich
Just prior to July 4th weekend we had repeatedly requested assistance and the transfer of
prisoners to U.S. military custody. We were told that Task Force 176 (TF-180’s
successors) would contact us to arrange pick-up of the terrorists just as soon as DIA
could set up the shipment (spook-speak for “EPW turnover”). As patriotic as we were,
Independence Day was completely fucking us up. While we were dealing with
terrorists, it seemed everyone else was partying.
At the same time someone was putting out “wanted posters” saying I was being
sought by the FBI for “interfering” in “force protection.” Whoa, I thought we were
doing a pretty good job of interfering with the terrorist’s plan to interfere with “force
protection.” I was really getting confused now.
We had located both remote-controlled bomb factories, and were now armed
with the photos and locations of the lead terrorist running the terror plot for bin Laden
and Hekmatyar, but instead of arresting them, I was now forced to deal with being an
FBI poster child.
We immediately sought the counsel of our people at the Pentagon, who stated,
Jack, relax,“it was an overzealous [army] captain” who thought he was helping the FBI
and “we are trying to resolve it.” I was wondering if anyone in the U.S. government
knew anything about what anyone else was doing? And, I was wondering if the FBI
knew anything about anything anyone was doing. The FBI later claimed that the poster
was a fraud, but to our knowledge, never arrested or even questioned the person that
authored this bogus poster.
We then contacted the Afghan ambassador who we were working with (he was
also a target of the terrorists, and bin Laden’s al-Qaida had severely wounded him
during the September 9th, 2001 suicide bombing that killed Massoud). We also
requested by phone, meetings with Amrullah, Chief of NDS, and with President Hamid
Karzai. Both these meetings were already scheduled for the following week.
With only a small combat team, we just didn’t have the manpower to hold the terrorists
any longer. On Friday we had privately met with Minister of Defence Marshal Fahim
for several hours and asked if we could put the terrorists in MOD custody until Bagram
and TASK FORCE 180 could get their heads out of their asses.
I briefed General Fahim on the entire operation, and requested three things; 1) a
meeting with General Daoud (MOD intelligence Chief); 2) transfer to MOD custody of
the terrorists– if the U.S. did not arrange transfer in 72 hours; and 3) assistance with
security on the way to Bagram Air Base. I also showed him the poster and he asked if
he could discuss it with Ambassador Khalilzad that next afternoon at the Friday July 4th
celebration at the U.S. Embassy. General Fahim had no doubt Khalilzad would clear it
up. We agreed and left the poster with him.
On Saturday, and Sunday July 3-4, we sent more emails to the Pentagon and U.S. Navy
Captain Frank at the American Embassy requesting assistance. Captain Frank, we had
already been told, was our new DIA liaison at the Embassy.
We again reached out for the spooks at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul and in
Canada, where our U.S. office contacted Canada’s super-secret JTF6 to confirm: 1) that
the Canadians would take custody, and 2) that the Canadians would prosecute if we
gave them enough evidence.
We also contacted General Attiquallah Lodeen, 3rd Corps Commander in Logar.
We discussed this with his senior staff because General Lodeen was in Dubai at the
time. We felt it was important to get General Lodeen’s opinion because the same
terrorists had engineered both prior attempts to blow up his car. The map of one of the
assassination attempts was found in one of the terrorists personal notebooks. General
Lodeen’s son brought back the message that we could turn that particular terrorist over
to the Canadians.
Unfortunately, the Canadian government did not feel that prosecuting Jamie
Murphy’s killers was a top priority, and did not notify us of their decision prior to our
July 4th weekend was at a close, the Canadian government was too busy with
cocktail parties to worry about the killers of a corporal, and since nobody at Bagram or
the Pentagon was answering their phones, satellite phones, or emails, I had made a
decision to deliver the terrorists to Bagram. Along with that, I would deliver an eightpage
plus report and interrogation videos detailing the terrorists’ plots and plans to kill
allied leaders and American soldiers, which was all ready to go.
We had more than enough evidence to send the bad guys away for life; rare
Alpha-1X2 explosives (an ISI marvel), grenades, terror expense lists, the cryptic Red
Cross letter from an al-Qaida brother being held at GITMO, maps of bomb routes,
pictures of one of the terrorist’s meetings with Hekmatyar, and their statements on
video. Everything was tied up in a neat little bow. Even the FBI would be able to
figure this one out.
In just three hours it would be sunset and we would head to Bagram under cover
of darkness to deliver the terrorists. I’d missed July 4th weekend with my wife, but I’d
be home for my father’s birthday and our family reunion in August in New York.
We had saved a lot of American lives. Thanks to the Office of the
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence passing our info to Task Force 180, we had
stopped the explosive fuel tankers from breaching Bagram. And, according to Ibrahim
Qanooni, “saved the lives of millions of Afghan people…” Life was good, we were on
top of the world; in ten days we would wind up the operation and head home—mission
complete. Everything was going according to plan.
So, exactly why was I lying on the concrete floor of a torture chamber semiconscious
and writhing in pain?
General Babajan, a fat gregarious man who had never been much of a General,
was now the national police chief in Kabul. He arrived at our gate just a few hours
before we left for Bagram with the terrorists.
As the first, of about 200 police began to climb our walls one of my soldiers
yelled “Jack!” and pointed. I knew right then it was going to be a really bad day. My
Panjshir soldiers– all either Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels, or former elite
bodyguards of Commander Massoud– immediately clicked off their safeties and aimed
their guns at the police. It was not an unwarranted act. With their mismatched ragtag
uniforms, we had no way of knowing if they really were police. For all we knew, it was
a Taliban or al-Qaida faction. My car had been machine-gunned just weeks before
while leaving Marshall Fahim’s neighborhood by what we first thought was just another
taxicab. In Afghanistan things are often not what they appear.
Although the “police” outnumbered us in assault rifles about 20 to 1, with a
single snap of my fingers, we could have annihilated them with RPG rockets and
In the middle of the standoff I heard Babajan’s name yelled in the street. I
ordered one of the men at the gate to get Babajan. I wanted to see if he was really there.
He was, and when I saw him at the gate I yelled, “guns down, no shooting.” It took
several times to get my boys to listen. I could almost hear them all taking up the slack
in their triggers and two of them had already pulled the pins on grenades and armed
RPG rockets. Babajan, was a friend, or so I thought. He was being nice enough to me,
but his guys weren’t lowering their guns. Babajan looked confused and dazed. He
seemed to be neither in control or cognizant of what was happening. I thought to
myself, how odd, why is he standing here staring, almost in a trance?
“Have them lower their guns too,” I told him pointing to the apoplectic NDS
guys waving around their Klashnikovs. Babajan noticed one of Massoud’s bodyguards
with me and he ordered his men to lower their guns; he knew where there was one there
were more, and he knew one more thing, as did everyone in Afghanistan; Massoud’s
bodyguards and Panjshir soldiers would not hesitate to pull a trigger, in a Kabul minute,
neither would Brent and I.
I invited Babajan inside to discuss “the problem.” Babajan assured me he just
wanted to “talk to me.” But once I let him in a few more followed and talk went to
arguments, which quickly turned into mayhem. Babajan still wasn’t saying much, just
standing there silently confused. It was like he was trying to figure out what I was
doing there and which side was I on. My interpreters wasted no time attempting to dial
Ministers and Ambassadors on our cell phones. Cell phones in Kabul never really work
when you most need them.
I recognized our friend Mohammed Naeem, a tough young agent who worked
with the American spooks as a liaison between the Afghan Intelligence agency. “Jack,
we have no problem with you, the FBI and OGA (Other Government Agencies, spookspeak
for CIA) just want to talk with you,” he said. “No problem, lets go talk to them.”
If the FBI just wanted to “talk” to me, I was ready to give them an earful, and I had no
problem meeting with the CIA. But I was leery of the statement. I could not imagine
the CIA involved, and they did not have a problem with us, nor did DOD, as I had been
talking to both repeatedly. In retrospect, as I sit here beaten and swollen, maybe I
should have shot it out, but we were supposed to be on the same side. Press lie # 37,
“there was a brief shootout.” Not a single shot was fired, nobody fought, nobody had
their hands up. The entire scene was captured on videotape by Ed.
Right before I stepped out into the dusty street and into the police truck, I handed
my pistol to Brent. The cops would only steal it if I brought it with me. Besides, I had
a back-up Makarov pistol under my uniform.
Babajan disappeared, and we found ourselves driving into NDS Headquarters
(the National Directorate of Security- known as Amniat). There was a day when NDS
and I were close. Engineer Araf was in charge then, and most of the Afghans still liked
Americans. Now NDS was controlled by Amrullah Saleh– put in place by Karzai to
diminish Massoud’s Northern Alliance power base and cater to the CIA, and more
unbelievably, the FBI. Of course neither I nor anyone else could figure out exactly
what the FBI’s purpose in Afghanistan was anyway.
The beat up old Toyota SUVs pulled in fast and stopped in the rundown unkempt
courtyard. The decrepit white buildings still carried the bullet holes of the last gun
battle with the Taliban, starkly contrasted by the dozens of wild rose bushes ranging
from bright red to brilliant yellow. It was a surrealistic scene reminiscent of the day we
took back the U.S. embassy in November 2001. Destruction and roses, all in the same
place. Brent, Ed, Zorro, Ezmerai, and myself, were all crammed into the back of the
SUV. Initially, it was only to be Brent and I, then one of the terrorists got brought out
and all bets were off. Everybody was going, including Ezmerai who had only been
there are about an hour. Ezmerai was a Panjshir major in the Ministry of Defense. I
wouldn’t find out until later that everyone had been put in vehicles and brought to NDS.
I turned to Ed and voiced my earlier silent observation; “this is about to be a really bad
“Don’t worry Jack,” Zorro, one of my interpreters responded, “Marshall Fahim
and Minister Qanooni will have us out of here by tomorrow.”
“I don’t think so Zorro, the Afghan government did not arrest us, the FBI did--
they were just too gutless to do it themselves.”
“Jack you are a hero in Afghanistan, the Generals love and respect you as their
brother, don’t worry.”
“That’s the problem Zorro, those are the Generals that the U.S. has now deserted
and want in jail alongside me.” I was referring to the Corps Commanders like General
Atta Mohammed in Mazar, General Hazrat Ali who fought with us in Tora Bora,
Generals Lodeen and Gulhaider who fought with us in OPERATION ANACONDA,
and General Daoud who was our great ally in Kunduz and Taloqan.
These were America’s greatest Muslim allies, yet I knew something few others
did. There had been a secret U.S. State Department directive to abandon the Northern
Alliance. Even though they had fought violently by our side, had died next to us, and
are incredibly loyal to America, the U.S. military was to cease all support of them and
to back Karzai’s Pashtun tribes (Lodeen was Pashtun, but his forces remained loyal to
Massoud’s Northern Alliance and anti-Taliban).
It was the theory of appeasement and double-cross which the U.S. State
Department had become so adept at over the last 50 years– recruit partisans and guerilla
fighters to topple a tyrannical government, then sell them out in the interest of coalitions
and lasting peace. How many countless times had we done it? How many allies had we
sold out? The Hmong and Montanguard tribes in the highlands of Vietnam, Somoza in
Nicaragua, the Karen on the Thai Burmese border. But the peace never lasted, and
bringing former Taliban enemies back into the government wasn’t going to work this
time either. Hell, we had just arrested three former Taliban officials who were now all
in the new government, including one as a judge, and they were about to blow up their
While the active duty military was trying to discredit, dismantle, and destroy our
only true friends and allies– who the press had dubbed “Warlords”– I was cheering
them on to continue fighting al-Qaida and working to reestablish relations between
them and America. Was I right? Well, I was the only American out there everyday
living alone with them. I knew their loyalty was to America, and that their hearts were
with us. On the other side was the State Department, living behind twenty foot thick
walls, protected by a swarm of Marines, with near zero indigenous contacts and having
daily cocktail parties.
I also knew it was only a matter of time before the State Department’s scorn for
these loyal—yet sensitive— Mujahadeen fighters would ferment their separation
anxiety into violent hate. America got engaged with the NA for business reasons, then
dumped them right after the honeymoon and ran off with their worst enemy. Then, as if
that wasn’t enough, then the State Department called their ex-fiancé a whore. Only they
used “warlord” to describe her. In fact, all of our Northern Alliance allies who fought
with us were suddenly “Warlords.” God this world was really fucked up. The press had
created this myth, lumping Massoud’s corps commanders into one big group, which
even included Massoud himself, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. All of
this was fueled by a few real “warlord” types that do traffic narcotics and cause trouble.
Press Lie #17- Zorro “worked for a Warlord.” Zorro, is a Ministry of Defence
employee and worked for General Atta Mohammed, who was in fact the 7th Corps
Commander in the Ministry of Defence and is now the Governor of Mazar.
On the bumpy road to God knows where, we had finally reached Minister
Qanooni’s brother on his cell phone. Trying to keep the cell phone conversation low
key was no easy task with a dozen soldiers swarming around the SUV as we pulled into
the middle of the NDS courtyard. Qanooni’s brother, Ibrahim, assured us it was all just
a big mistake and would be resolved in an hour.
Taken one by one into the basement, I immediately recognized every mud brick
in the place. I had been here many times before after we occupied Kabul on November
12th, 2001 as the Taliban were in full retreat to the east and south. Back then the
courtyard had been splattered with blood, and littered with bodies when the last of the
Taliban skipped out of Kabul in the middle of the night on November 10th, 2001.
I had returned this time, not as a liberator, but as a prisoner. My wife is usually
the one that hates it when I am right. This time I hated it. It was clearly a bad day. The
underground cell I was thrown in was cold, dark, gray, and barely lit with peeling paint
and splattered bloodstains. Just what you would expect. I looked around and wondered
just how much blood was spilled here. Then I moved to a more important question– just
how much more blood was about to be spilled here. As I surveyed my situation a
variety of insects crossed the floor. I knew things were going to go rapidly downhill
NOTE: This is Amrullah arriving at NDS the night of July 5th, 2004
Four shiny Toyota LandCruisers raced down the narrow pot-holed street in central
Kabul City. Three were new. One had seen its better days. Kabul police cars instantly
slammed on their brakes seeing the approaching convoy and allowed it to pass. The few
Kabul traffic cops still on duty that night dropped their German made wooden hand
signal signs to their sides and saluted. A rare gesture, reserved for Marshall Fahim,
Minister Qanooni, Ambassador Wali Massoud, and occasionally, for President Karzai.
This convoy carried none of those people. The fact that three of the
LandCruisers were packed with plainclothes Afghan carrying Kalikov assault rifles and
wearing Eddie Bauer style-hunting vests was not unusual. The fact that the convoy was
running every single car, bicycle, handcart, or pedestrian off the road was not unusual.
The fact that the convoy literally ran a white UN LandCrusier with diplomatic plates off
the road was not unusual. This was still Afghanistan, where power and guns, and
powerful looking entourages ruled.
What was unusual was the cleanliness of each of the vehicles – nothing evaded
Afghan dust – that and the destination at 8pm at night.
The convoy barely slowed as it passed the Mustafa Hotel and turned into NDS
headquarters, the lair of the Afghan CIA. The two camouflaged soldiers racing to open
the gates barely made it in time to prevent the lead LandCruiser from smashing them
open with its bumper.
Skidding to a stop the NDS bodyguards were out of the SUVs in a second. In
another second the back left passenger door of the second LandCruiser was opened and
out stepped an impeccably dressed man, large but trim in physical stature, almost
terrifyingly large in physical pretence, and disturbingly, eerily, imposing in his complete
lack of emotion.
He did not need to adjust his dark suit, his tie, or brush off his pants from the
ride. It was clear from his first step, everything about him was impeccable.
Wasting no time he walked swiftly up the stairs and into the building, never looking
back to see if his men were behind him. Never hesitating for a door to open for him.
NOTE: Extreme Rough Notes inserted from article, needs complete rewrite:
I could hear voices, rustling, footsteps, and cell doors opening and closing. As far as I
knew they had only taken four of us. I wondered if all my Panjshir soldiers had made it
out. Half my reason for arguing and delaying back at our compound was to get Minister
Qanooni or Marshall Fahim on the phone, but the other half was to allow my Panjshir
commanders to slip away.
It wasn’t long before I heard the footsteps in the hallway stop in front of my
rusted iron door. Three weathered men in ragtag green camo uniforms stepped inside
and escorted me back upstairs. In the hallway they took out the handcuffs and told me
to put my hands behind my back. I told them they were making a mistake. One of them
looked exactly like Oddjob in James Bond’s Goldfinger film. I mean exactly. Even his
clothes, except that he was missing the hat.
And Oddjob was not smiling...
Sy, one of our interpreters, was also brought up. Sy was a wreck, crying and
shaking. Sy’s job was not a military one. He was in charge of hiring house staff,
purchasing anything from diesel fuel to fly spray, and repairing the house, which was a
full time job. But Sy never participated in any OPs, never had contact with the terrorists
and never wore military gear or clothes. Sy always wanted to fight the terrorists and the
Taliban, but he was just a 19 year-old kid with no experience and his only “crime” had
been loving his country too much. He once picked up a machinegun in our living room
and I ripped it out of his hands explaining that he was never to touch a weapon.
Here was Sy, crying while NDS was threatening to kill him on the spot. I took
his head to my shoulder, patted him on the back and told him, “Don’t worry Sy,
everything will be fine, they won’t hurt you.” That was the second lie I told Sy. The
first was when I had told him everything would be alright back at the house. I
remember the time I told a gunshot Northern Alliance soldier everything would be
alright during the war. I kept telling him that as he died in my lap. Sometimes people
don’t need the whole truth. Sometimes the truth can just add to the pain.
By now about ten men had streamed in. Three were pointing AK-47’s
(Klashnikov’s as the Afghans refer to them) at us. It took me only a few seconds to
compute favorable odds that I could kill all ten in just about the same few seconds. A
hundred percent, no doubt, no second thoughts. One Klashnikov would be in my hands,
safety off, slide racked to prevent dropping the hammer on an empty chamber, then the
two guys still with guns would be first, then Oddjob since he was clearly the most
dangerous. All of them would be dead before you could say, “I’ll have a cold Corona
and an ashtray,” at the Hard Rock Café. I’m sorry, but that’s the way a Green Beret
thinks. Get over it.
The problem would have been getting the rest of the guys out and then getting all
of us through the hail of bullets that would be flooding the rose-filled courtyard as we
made our exit. That and the fact that we would be killing our “allies.” So much for
I opted for “Plan B,” the kinder gentler approach, “Look, he’s a kid, don’t beat
him I am requesting you honor a long Mujahadeen tradition. Do not hurt my men, I am
the commander, and I will take the beatings for them,” having already figured out that
Oddjob spoke English. I allowed them to handcuff me behind my back. And with no
hesitation I had my request immediately approved.
Confirmation came when Oddjob smashed the left side of my head, squarely on
As one of them held my cuffs the blows came swiftly. All with an open hand,
but Oddjob’s hands were like kiln-fired bricks traveling at the speed of a Louisville
Slugger. One after another they came. Oddjob was a pro at this. That was clear by the
third or fourth blow. Blood spewed from my mouth, my nose, and my eyes. But I
remained standing and silent. I have no idea how, but I did.
From there I was taken back across the courtyard to a large building. I’d been
here many times in the old days. It was the NDS “Executive Offices.” Upstairs I
stepped into a nicely remodeled room. Very upscale for Afghanistan.
“Have a seat,” my host directed in a suave and debonair tone of articulate
“And who might you be?” I asked the meticulously dressed and groomed man in
the dark $500 suit. He nodded to the right, just a slight, ever so faint nod, and Oddjob’s
right brick hit me again.
“I will ask the questions,” clichéd the man in the dark suit.
“Ahh, it took me a second, I was still a little dazed and my vision is blurry,” I
paused briefly, “but I know who you are. You must be Amrullah. A pleasure to finally
meet you,” I said slowly and coldly. He did not respond.
“Who are you working for?”
“The Northern Alliance and the Corps Commanders.”
“They no longer exist,” he said.
“The Corps Commanders do, and it’s my job to keep the NA allied with the
“You are running another Abu Ghraib here. You have been cutting off fingers,
electrocuting prisoners, raping them…”
“What the fuck,” I interrupted, “are you talking about…” Oddjob smacked me
again as I slumped back in the soft couch blinking my eyes to stop the flashing lights
from swirling through my brain like a Timothy Leary kaleidoscope.
“I also do the talking here.” Amrullah crossed his legs and continued, “we know
about the women you killed whose bodies you left in the desert to rot. How many
people have you murdered and where are their bodies?”
“We haven’t killed anyone, we haven’t hurt anyone, but we have arrested some
very important terrorists, and we did so with your government and informed our
“General Barno does not know who you are.” He was speaking about the U.S.
Army commander at Bagram Air Base.
“General Barno is an asshole. Call the Pentagon. The phone number is in the
mobile they took from me. Ask for the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of
Defense for Intelligence.”
“No, I think I will not,” he paused, silent for a good minute, and then continued.
“Two years ago you were at a party, with music and dancing on our greatest religious
“Yes, I remember that. It was a party by ABC Australia for a journalist that was
“You violated our religion.”
“I didn’t violate anything, I didn’t even know it was a religious day. I was only a
guest, and the only thing I did was stop some fanatics from killing about a dozen
American and Australian women,” I argued.
“They violated our religion, was it your job to interfere?”
“It is my job to stop anyone from murdering anyone, especially women, and
especially American women.”
“And now,” Amrullah paused, “who will protect you?” I didn’t answer. I knew
we were on our own, out in the cold, the minute we were accused of the “T” word,
torture. We had already been disavowed, and there was a good chance it was going to
get worse. The American soldiers, like Lynndie England, with their childish,
humiliating, and unprofessional behavior, had started a prairie fire in the Muslim world.
They had given the terrorists torches with which to burn us all alive in this war on
“You met with Fahim from 10am until 1pm, what was that meeting about?”
“About the terrorists that were trying to kill him,” I replied.
“He would never have met with you if he had known you were wanted by the
“Well the FBI has their own agenda.”
“You will hang, and so will your friends,” Amrullah said as his eyes stared at me
without so much as a blink.
“A small price to pay for the hundreds of American soldiers we saved,” I replied
“And a price you will pay. You will never leave Afghanistan alive.”
“I figured as much,” I said with the same arrogant tone that has punctuated bad
events becoming worse events in my life.
Amrullah nodded his head and again Oddjob proceeded to toss me out the door
and down the concrete steps. The significance of the conversation was not lost on me. I
had just had a private conversation with the Afghan equivalent of George Tenet. Except
that the NDS had no Executive Order prohibiting murder and assassination. Basically, I
was fucked, and so was everyone with me.
I was taken back to the cell in the underground dungeon. There, they took off
my desert combat boots and placed the iron leg shackles and bars on my ankles.
Oddjob had stayed behind. Five new men were there now, all in green camo uniforms,
and all with ragged beards and weasely looks. Sitting spread legged on the floor my
handcuffs came off and I was told to remove my desert tan uniform shirt. I handed my
shirt to one of them and he promptly spit on the American flag on my right sleeve. As I
tried to stand he dropped it to the floor and ground the spit in with his boot. I
recognized the all to familiar word now, Amerikan Kafir, and grabbed the flag off the
floor. Kafir meant a non-Muslim, and to radical fundamentalists, that meant a nonhuman
in this twisted world.
He was a little surprised when I caught his boot at the ankle in mid-air with my
right hand right before it connected with my face; as my left hand barely stopped
another’s boot. Mohammed, or what ever the bastard’s name was, seemed even more
surprised by the second catch, and became very nice, calling me his friend. Then the
handcuffs went back on.
The next thirty minutes was classic Taliban. In came the rubber hose, then the
flat-wood stick, and they proceeded to play crochet with my body. My ribs were broken
in a rather short order. My shoulders were torn as they held me up by the cuffs and
hammered at my stomach. The wooden stick on my shins was probably the most
painful, although it all blended together after a while.
No one ever asked me anything. This was not interrogation, this was simply
torture for sport and I tried to block out their laughter with my own laughter– induced
by a special blend of fantasy and desire. I closed my eyes and thought about blowing
off their kneecaps, among other things, and leaving them to bleed to death.
As the beatings continued, they would get tired, and then take a chai break.
About an hour later they would come back and start all over again. At some point it got
more personal, and they just started slapping my head with open palms apparently not
wanting to do too much visible damage to my face. On that note they failed.
Eventually it stopped and I either passed out or just fell asleep on the floor.
NOTE: This is the two FBI guys arriving at Ariana Hotel the night of July 5th
The white four door Ford Taurus rounded the turnabout circle and drove quickly, but
not fast, past the monument being erected to Commander Massoud. On the left was the
shoddy guard-post and gate that blocked the access road to the Presidential Palace. The
road had been blocked to through traffic since the day after Jack recommended the
security upgrade to President Rabanni in December 2001; just forty days after Kabul
fell to the U.S. Army Special Forces and Northern Alliance.
Sitting at the guard post were four Afghan soldiers in mismatched uniforms. In
front of them stood an old six foot long wooden table. On the table sat four olive drab
old Russian helmets, three Klashnikov assault rifles, and one Russian PK belt-fed
machinegun, old, rusted, but still operational.
The white sedan veered left and a past a sign written in English, and obviously
for journalists. It said “No Photos,” and had a camera in a red circle occluded by a
diagonal red line. On the left were lines of dark green plastic drums encapsulated in
thick metal chicken wire. The drums were filled with sand and dirt. Behind them,
another line of drums, three high, stacked in a pyramid and surrounding the entire
compound. Behind them, a stone wall. Behind that 40’ long steel shipping containers
filled with dirt and stacked three high creating a barrier more than thirty feet high and in
some places more than fifty feet high. It was American Army improvised security at its
Behind all those, and the machinegun turrets, guard posts, heavy metal gates,
zig–zag entrance, and roof mounted rocket launchers, was the Ariana Hotel.
The Ariana Hotel was the most secure, protected, and heavily armed hotel in the
world. At least until the U.S. war machine geared up in Baghdad and prepared for the
long-haul after declaring “victory” in Iraq. But it still ranked as the most heavily
guarded and armed resort in the world outside of Baghdad.
This was where General Tommy Franks stayed during his brief visits to Kabul in
the years before. Where the CENTCOM housed it’s top ranking officers. Where the
DIA, NSA, CIA, and all other alphabet agencies put their people when temporarily in
Kabul. And, now, it was where the FBI housed their field agents hoping to get in on the
It was Ritz-Carlton in Afghanistan, fine food, dotting servants, imported
furniture, and three bars, all fully stocked. Of course General Order number One
prevented U.S. military personnel from consuming alcohol in a combat-zone– thanks to
Tommy Franks– but that didn’t stop anyone else.
When the white sedan stopped inside Mohammed Naeem opened the door for the older
man, the other American was already getting out. Both Americans were dressed in L.L.
Bean cargo pants and the familiar Afghan safari vests all spooks had taken to wearing,
including the wannabe spooks. Both these men were in good physical condition, in
spite of the ten extra pounds they had actually gained in a place where the average
Green Beret lost twenty-five pounds. It was a testament to the Ariana Hotel’s fine food
and cold beer.
The older man shook Mohammed’s hand first.
“Thanks for a great day, a really great day.”
“I am always at your service,” Mohammed replied dutifully.
“And we appreciate it,” the younger American answered.
“We’ll see you in the morning, how about 10?” The senior man stated.
“That late?” Mohammed looked slightly perplexed.
“Hey, when your day goes this well, its Miller Time, and we intend to knock
down a few tonight.”
Mohammed had excellent English, and good command of slang, sarcasm, and
American colloquy, but Miller Time eluded him. Sensing his lack of understanding, the
younger American, although he was at least forty years old, clarified their meaning,
“We’re going to celebrate with a few beers,”
“More than a few,” the older man interrupted.
“Yeah more than a few. Miller is an American beer ‘Miller Time’ means its
“Got it,” Mohammed responded as he shook their hands again and turned back to
“Hey,” the older man said, “great day, I mean a really great day, we got em!”
“The last time someone said that, it was your Paul Bremer about Saddam. The
next time I thought I would hear it was when we got bin Laden,” Mohammed said, not
only with a quiet hesitation, but with an unnoticeable spark of confusion in his brain.
“As far as our boss is concerned, this was just as good, we not only stopped him,
we got him, and his crew,” the younger American explained.
“Tomorrow,” Mohammed said. He then got in the Sedan and watched the two
men give each other a congratulatory high five. It was something Mohammed was
already familiar with, having learned its meaning from the first American Special
Forces soldiers he worked with in Northern Afghanistan in the beginning. The two
Americans walked off towards the bar, gleeful, even giddy with their day’s work.
Mohammed drove away and out the Ariana’s fortified gate having second thoughts
about the last five days.
NOTE: Extreme Rough Notes inserted from article, needs complete rewrite:
The next day I was moved to the regular NDS prison area, another rundown decrepit
structure. This one housed 500 al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners. But it wasn’t to be for
long. That night I was back in the dungeon. This time for a more interesting adventure.
In came the psychos again, but they seemed more concerned about my condition.
“Cheturasti?” one said in Dari for “How are you?”
“Hoopesie,” I replied in Dari for “fine.”
“Chai?” one asked me, as he held a teapot and two glass cups in his hands.
“I have no idea how I will drink it with my hands behind my back.” At first I
thought, how nice, he is going to pour me a cup and help me drink. Then the son-of-abitch
poured the boiling water into my crotch as the leg irons kept my legs spread.
There was no way to avoid it, two other men were holding my ankles and I was locked
into a “V” flattened out on the floor as he strategically swept the boiling water down the
insides of my thighs, trying, it seemed, not to actually pour it on my balls. I was sure
they could hear those screams on the other side of the Khyber Pass a hundred miles
Another break, and when the two of them returned one was holding a gold-plated
double-edged razor. I strained to see the whole image before me. The blood in my eyes
and mouth had dried now, and left this irritating desire to scratch my face, which was,
of course, impossible.
At first I thought I was going to get my head or my beard shaved, but this was
Creative Torture 101. They spun me over on my stomach, and, grasping the head of the
metal razor inside his palm with the handle protruding between his index and ring
finger, one of then began punching my back in this weird Kung Fu routine. First he
would hold his hand back towards his chest, then wind up, yell “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is
Great) and then slam the metal punch into my back. It was an interesting concept–
direct all your energy into a ½ “diameter spot. “Please…” was about the only word I
could muster between the yelps and screams.
Soon it was time to move on. Their next game was rape. I had wondered how
long it would take the sick bastards to get to that. The Arab and Muslim races have
long used rape as torture. I had been hoping they could skip that part and get right to
Thanks to my Desantis/ICS Helicopter Extraction Assault Belt the stupid
bastards could not figure out the Velcro® buckle release, and the iron bars between my
legs had finally accomplished something for my benefit. But these two things were
sideshows to my vicious adrenaline enhanced struggle. Attempted rape is a motivating
experience, and I wondered why some women just submitted to the fear.
I remember teaching anti-rape classes for women at a police academy in NY– I
thought I was an expert. I drilled the classes in intricate hand-to-hand combat
techniques. In retrospect, I didn’t have a clue. Now I do. Forget about those fancy
self-defense moves. Just release that primal survival extinct and lash out with every
fiber of your being. I had in fact figured out the ultimate rape defense for women– just
They couldn’t hold me down. And they couldn’t get my body to stop moving.
At one point I managed to throw the biggest one completely over my shoulders using
the leg irons as a catapult.
My attackers settled on a few symbolic dry humps to get their point across. Then
spit in my eyes and mouth, and left.
Over the next night I could hear the screams of Zorro, Ezmerai, and Sy. Ezmerai
was a major, commander of the Communications Battalion of the First Base of the
Panjshir. He had only been visiting my house, to discuss working with me again.
Ezmerai had been with me for most of my first year in Afghanistan and had been my
Close Protection Officer, in charge of my Panjshir security detail. He was walking
through the desert next to me on the front cover of the NY Times best-selling book,
THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN–Task Force Dagger. I had been happy to see Ezmerai
again. But his loyalty to me was to be his undoing
All of their screams were different. Sy’s screams went for three nights. They
were the pitiful whining piercing sort you would expect. Part fear, part pain, part
Zorro’s screams were older, deeper, less persistent and quieter– if you can
describe a scream as “quiet.”
Ezmerai’s screams were those of a hardened Mujahadeen who had fought with
Commander Massoud. They were the sort you admire. In fact, I don’t think Ezmerai
even started screaming in earnest until they hooked him up to the electricity.
I wondered why they had broken our agreement to only torture me. I assumed
they decided that only applied to the Americans with me, not the Afghans. It wasn’t
until weeks later I learned that the three had refused to sign false statements against me
and this was their punishment. Sherzai had signed a statement accusing me of every
thing even remotely imaginable. I could not understand why– the statement including
everything from prostitution, to hash smoking, to rape and wild parties. I would learn
why months later.
It took about a week for Sandy Ingram, the Consulate Officer at the US Embassy,
to show up. She was a typical State Department diplomatic officer. A condescending
holier than thou bitch that made it clear she was only doing her job when she handed me
a box of water. Her first question was “how are you doing?”
“Well my ribs are broke in numerous places, I’ve got welts all over my body, my
sternum is probably fractured, my head feels like a whiffle ball, and both my eyes are
blood red from hemorrhaging. I’m seeing floaties (eye matter breaking up in your
retina) that are increasing daily and might indicate a detached retina in progress, but
other than that I am fine. I want to know how the other guys are.” I was angry and
Ingram sensed it. And I had every right to be.
“Ed and Brent look better than you,” she replied.
“Did they beat you?” A typical DOS question into the obvious.
“No, I got this falling up a set of stairs,” pointing to the bruises and abrasions on
the sides of my head.
Sandy just stared at me in disdain.
“Of course they beat me.” I paused and considered the gravity of what I was
about to ask. “Would you like to get us into U.S. custody? The Afghans claim they
arrested us for the FBI. So we should be transferred to U.S. custody. Right?”
Basically, I got nowhere with Sandy Ingram. She was a forty year-old lawyer,
who told me I didn’t know shit and she knew everything. Sandy Ingram was a typical
bureaucrat. When we discussed the legalities and application of the Geneva Convention
during a subsequent visit, Sandy informed me that she had been a trial lawyer for eleven
years and had tried “hundreds of cases.” It didn’t require rocket science math to take
the lowest figure of 100 cases and divide it by the length of her experience; which
averaged out to one trial every forty days for eleven years straight, not counting
holidays, weekends, and vacations. Yeah right.
Sandy informed us separately that women’s bloody head coverings had been
found in our house. The NDS and FBI claimed we were running a torture chamber and
private jail, and we had entered the country illegally using phony Indian passports. It
was one hundred and ten percent fabrication and fiction. But, Babajan and the FBI had
been smart. Once Babajan found out we really were working for the government, really
had arrested real terrorists, and that every general in the Northern Alliance was trying to
get us released, he also realized that he and NDS had completely screwed up getting in
bed with the FBI.
So, since the damage was already done, the only thing to do was to initiate the
cover-up. The FBI, through Babajan, quickly released to the press all the insane
accusations, plus a bunch of new ones– we had been hanging terrorists upside down,
burning them with cigarettes, dipping them in boiling water, starving them, and beating
them. Press Lie #32, Associated Press not only reported that the terrorists had been
found hanging upside down, but that we had a shootout with the police, and then
surrendered. The die had been cast, and the press now had a story that would grow by
leaps and bounds in fantasy and false allegations. We later found out that AP’s
“unnamed source” had been an Afghan working for the FBI.
Then came the final coup d’ grat. Press Lie #41: None of them were terrorists,
and we were simply kidnappers selling our victims for money. Never mind the fact that
there was no ceiling in our sand brick compound capable of hanging anyone from
without the roof collapsing. No one had any burns or marks the day after all this
supposedly occurred. We had no stove on which to boil all this boiling water. And our
take-out bills for restaurant rice and kebob were about a hundred dollars a day, unheard
of in Afghanistan.
The press, fueled by Abu Ghraib and picture of that mop-haired freak Lynndie
England, did the rest, convicting us before we could snap our fingers. Freelance
torturing psychopaths sold stories and pictures, and the second-stringers in Afghanistan
finally had a cash cow story to rival Abu Ghraib.
Meanwhile, the FBI finally showed up in person. Two young guys who looked
pretty darn squared away. I had seen them before driving through Kabul and thought
they were Special Forces sergeants with their beards, blue jeans and shoulder holsters.
Kevin and Jim, if those were their real names, took a different approach with me then
they did with Ed and Brent. They had accused Ed of murder, outright. And Ed, the
consummate gentleman that he is—unlike me— lit them up with a perfect retort,
“Quite frankly, I don’t care for your tone.” Ed then returned to his cell without
waiting for permission.
They were nice and made no threats to me. Ed and Brent had both basically told
them to “Fuck off” in the first minute of their conversations and said I would do the
talking if there was any to be done. My boys were troopers, and Ed was rapidly
converting from journalist to commando.
“Did you kill anybody?” started the exchange.
“NO. If you get in a firefight then your raid was poorly planned and pitifully
executed,” I replied.
“Did you cut any fingers off?”
“No,” I laughed, “that gets bullshit confessions to anything, not information
about other terrorists.”
“What did you do?” Kevin asked. Kevin was slightly older and had ten years in
the Bureau. I had asked for their résumés during the introduction phase. Both were
prior Army, so I gave them a break on the snotty comments I usually handout to FBI
“Mostly?” I paused for them to nod, “we kept then up, played loud Melissa
Etheridge and Joe Cocker music, and tricked them into thinking the other terrorists were
already cooperating. And then we flipped them like flapjacks.”
“How did you keep them up?” Jim asked.
“Loud Rock and Roll music and water… cold water.”
“Can you prove they are terrorists?” Jim questioned.
“You guys have been looking for Ghulamsaki for almost six months, what do
“We think we need to get you out of here so we can catch the rest and transfer
these guys to U.S. custody. I assume there are more?”
“We had three more raids planned for after we turned those guys over to Bagram.
But what you suggest is never going to happen. FBI Headquarters will be too
embarrassed that we got them before they did.”
“Let us worry about that. How did you get all those marks and bruises?”
I told them and they seemed genuinely concerned. Over the next seven to ten
days the FBI came almost everyday. They brought all of us cigarettes, Pepsi, and paid
the jail to feed us Kebab. They were using the same tactics on me that I had used on the
terrorists. The difference was that we didn’t need to be flipped, we were already on
“our” side. During our second or third late night meeting, they showed me pictures of
several house searches they did in Khost to the south. I explained that they should be
getting big guys with me instead of grabbing low level Taliban foot soldiers with one
Klashnikov and some spare ammo. They agreed. It was the Soviet Union all over
again, the field agents knew what to do and how to fight a war, and their bosses didn’t
have a clue.
I was actually beginning to like them, and even trust them. Kevin wanted to
know what he could do to get Ghulamsaki to talk. I said “just bring him in and let me
question him– but most of all let me look like I’m in control and once I get him talking
they could take over. I also explained that there was something more important to me
than helping us– they had to get the terrorists into U.S. custody and segregated quickly.
All of my interrogations had been videotaped so U.S. interrogators at Bagram could use
the tapes to get up to speed on the operation, names, and facts. I also explained that we
were losing valuable time. Bin Laden had surely already moved. Sabir, the terror cell’s
leader might already be on the run, and my surveillance on him might already be
compromised. As for the bomb builders, they would have already sanitized their
locations. Again, total agreement, and they were sincere about it.
I straightened up my uniform, tucked in the laces of my desert boots, and
completely re-arranged the room to resemble where Ghulamsaki had his last discussions
with me. Then they brought Ghulamsaki in and let me roll. He actually believed I was
still in control. The ruse worked like all the others I had subjected the terrorists to.
Ghulamsaki sung like a canary, telling almost everything to the FBI. Because he was in
an NDS prison he would not admit to actually being one of the men that was going to
kill Qanooni and Fahim, but he did lay out the plot and the entire fuel truck bombing
plan to turn Bagram into an inferno. When we were through with Ghulamsaki we
talked privately about him and his information.
“Sorry I couldn’t get him to admit he was the one who was going to kill Qanooni
and Fahim with Serajan, but he’s scared, there was an NDS guy in the room and he
figures the Panjshir guys will kill him or beat him if he admits to that while in Afghan
“Hey, we figured. Besides, blowing up Bagram is good enough for us. We
camp out there ever now and then, and there’s no shortage of fuel trucks going in and
out every day.”
“You know, I just tried to save Americans and my friends, and I did. You know
that, don’t you,” I told them.
“Jack, you’re a hero with us. We mean it,” Kevin said.
“You are a hero Jack, we both really do mean it. Nobody would have taken the
risks you did for your country,” Jim added.
“Yeah, you’ve got our vote, now let’s just see if we can get you and your guys
out of there,” said Kevin. He sounded so sincere, but so had I when I promised my
terrorists sat phones and money.
“Thanks,” I said, “but your bosses will never allow it– politics are more
important than stopping terrorists,” I told them.
“Let us worry about the politics,” Jim said. I hoped that they knew what they
were getting into, but the reality was they had no idea…
A few days later the Kebob stopped coming. My FBI friends had disappeared
off the face of the earth. But not before Washington ordered them to take all
exculpatory evidence, including 500 pages of emails, letters, and documents between
our team and the U.S. and Afghan governments. The FBI also confiscated fifty plus
rolls of film and more than two hundred videotapes. The pictures and the videos
showed we were working with both governments on a daily basis. Every interrogation
had been videotaped by Caraballo and those tapes would have freed us and put the
terrorists away for life. A few photos did survive– some digital copies of several photos
that had been emailed to the Pentagon and copied to “a friend” in the U.S. for a “rainy
day,” and today was a raging typhoon.
But, there was no way to get the documents and photos we needed back to
Afghanistan for our defense.
By now, I had been seen by three Afghan doctors who Sandy sent. They
confirmed the hemorrhaging in my eyes, the trauma to my head, and the injuries from
the torture, all of which was still present when they showed up two weeks later. The
doctors wrote a report, which the Embassy had still not released to me five weeks later,
in spite of written demands and FOIA requests. Over the next three weeks Sandy grew
more and more adversarial, refusing to give me the medical reports. Weeks later one of
the doctors, who had read The Hunt for Bin Laden book, told me they had been made to
rewrite the original medical reports and “soften them up.” I was livid.
Each week Sandy showed up at the prison with water, and magazines, many of
which were donated by Special Forces guys at the Embassy. We appreciated these
small gestures. The water kept us from dying and the magazines kept us sane. But, the
Consular Office was supposed to be a little more proactive when Americans were being
held in such horrendous conditions, especially in a prison funded by U.S. taxpayers.
Two of our favorite deliveries were Men’s Health and Vanity Fair. The Men’s health
issue with an article about The Punisher, had a great workout regime when you don’t
have weights. Great for an al-Qaida cell workout. Ed decided we should write our own
version— the “Mud Cell Workout,” with no furniture and flies. Vanity Fair was great
because it was thick and had lots of chicks. Sometimes lots of ads can be a good thing.
Even a really good thing. That meant you could pass one issue around and keep the
terrorists busy for hours and you’d have a half-day free of chanting. Not to mention it
held up to the “Afghan taste test.” Send out People and it comes back shredded. Send
out Vanity Fair and comes back with a few pages missing, but still readable. Vanity
Fair, interesting I thought. What if I could tell the story in my own words, unabridged,
unmolested, un-chopped, and accurate. I pulled the hidden pen out of the ceiling and
the scraps of paper out from under the carpet. I wrote “Vanity Fair” on top of the page,
and began to write. I am writing it now.
My beatings continued, and most weeks Sandy was met with new bruises and
battered body parts. Her main emphasis seemed to be ensuring there was no visible
damage for the press to see when we appeared in Court. She stopped sending doctors
for a month, after I requested the medical reports through a FOIA request. The last
thing the State Department wanted, or wants is documented evidence that U.S. “allies”
are torturing U.S. citizens. Worse than that of course, is the revelation that the State
Department knows about it and FBI officials condone it.
At one point we asked for aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Ciprofloxacin, which are the
three things that can keep you alive and well in an Afghan prison. Sandy informed me
that this required a doctor’s visit, for which we would be billed. I explained that these
things cost about five dollars total at any pharmacy in Kabul and were non-prescription
drugs in Afghanistan. It didn’t matter. The doctor never came, the beatings continued,
and all of us got sicker and sicker and more depressed. Especially Ed. He was a
journalist. He had neither the mindset nor the training to endure. On our fourth or fifth
court appearance Ed showed up with the soles of his feet black and blue, barely able to
walk. One look at his soles and I knew he had been beaten on the bottom of his feet
with a large wooden stick– classic Taliban. This was the first time they had overtly
tortured an American besides me. Perhaps the NDS was upset with the video evidence
Ed was about to show in court of Ghulamsaki confessing. The photo of his feet
appeared on the AP wire service. The prosecution claimed he slipped in the latrine. Ed
refused to discuss it. The U.S. Embassy did nothing.
The reality was we would die in here, at the hands of the very people we
liberated. Maybe this year, maybe next year, or maybe in ten years, but the odds were
we would die, and lots of people were counting on it, especially FBI headquarters in
Until that time comes, we spend our days listening to prayer five times a day by
people who are asking God for the destruction of our country and our way of life.
Because we are not Muslims, neither are we humans. That brings a host of further
inhumanity with it. (REPEATED in another section previously, rewritten to avoid
repetition- really look at this for editing?) After almost sixty days, my third bath today,
from a small bucket of dirty water. The first and second times I was beat with five-foot
long wooden poles the size of 2x4s. Apparently I took longer than the three minutes
allowed to Kafirs. It was then I realized the futility of trying to defend yourself when
naked. I could have killed them too, but what was I to do about the 200 soldiers outside
with machineguns? It was best just to take the beating. After that I gave up bathing– it
just wasn’t worth it. Besides, Brent had passed me a message, which was more
information than I needed to know– the wooden poles were used to unclog the toilet
trenches and drains. Then today, they came, and I refused, and they graciously agreed
to five minutes and no wooden sticks.
People complain about the treatment of al-Qaida prisoners at GITMO in Cuba.
America needs to wake up and smell the coffee. I’d rather be in GITMO. This is war,
and war is brutal. Al-Qaida showed us that on September 11th.
Here you have to buy your own food. Since the NDS took all of our money it
means you starve, not completely though. The Afghan government gives us one piece
of nun (Afghan bread) and about two cups of rice per day. The five al-Qaida terrorists
that share my compact cell eat fairly well. Their families are allowed to bring them
food several times a week, and they buy food and prepare it every day. A small bag of
tomatoes or onions is about ten cents. Chili peppers are a nickel each. They chop them
and stir them in water, dirty water, and then soak the bread in it for a meal.
At first they hated me openly. Now they just hate me because I won’t convert to
their religion and say President Bush and all Americans deserve to die. They seem to
love Clinton though, and love talking about Monica and Clinton’s prowess with
“American whores” – all American women are whores according to them, and put on
earth by Allah solely for their pleasure.
The chanting, the praying, the hate, and the brainwashing rhetoric– this is an al-
Qaida breeding ground. If you were on the edge when you got here, within months you
will be over the edge. Ed began praying to Allah and wearing Muslim clothes. His life
got better. It was the smart thing to do. Praying in the Muslim religion is a five minute
ritual (unless you have a Mullah in your room—then it goes on forever * Here or put
during that night we were all together at NDS?) of bending, kneeling, and prostrating
ones self, while silently reciting salutations to Allah and the Prophet Mohammed. This
is done five times a day, beginning at 0500 hours. For Ed, a lifelong student of the
human condition, this prayer helped him better understand the culture and gave him his
only exercise in his claustrophobic yellowed cage. The problem isn’t the religion. As
Ed pointed out to me one night in the mountains watching our soldiers pray under the
moonlight, just as we had seen them do with Massoud, it was pure in its purpose.
Communal praying can be a strong factor in bonding soldiers joined shoulder to
shoulder, under the desert stars, asking for God to grant them the will and the strength to
beat their opponent.
Massoud and his Northern Alliance proved faith’s value when they drove the
Soviets from their homeland. But, al-Qaida, the Taliban, the PLO, Hezbollah, Islamic
Jihad, Hamas, and a hundred other radical fanatical groups have perverted their faith
and misinterpreted the Qur’an (Koran), for their own politics and recruitment purposes.
I have a fundamental psychological problem praying with individuals that use God as
their excuse to kill women and children and spread terror across the planet. I could
make believe, secretly asking God to give me a machinegun, but even the thought of
kneeling next to al-Qaida terrorists and saying “Allah-o-Ahkbar” makes me sick. That–
“God is Great”– is what al-Qaida yells every time they kill us. I also have a problem
eating food supplied by the very people I am sworn to destroy. That and the fact that
animal guts boiled in oil– the dinner meal, mostly oil and one handful of guts for six
people– does not sit well with my palate or my digestive tract. Sandy and the Embassy
had an answer– eat terrorist food or starve. I am now twenty pounds lighter.
The magazines given to us by Sandy provide an intimate look at our enemies. If
they see a dead body in TIME or Newsweek their eyes light up and the invariably point
to the pictures and ask me, “Amerikoyee?” I always reply, “No, al-Qaida,” even if the
body is a U.S. Marine. They frown. All of them want only one thing– actually two
things, to kill Americans, and to rape American women. Not necessarily in that order.
Hand them– actually they just grab it– an ELLE, Cosmopolitan, People, or
Vanity Fair (they went wild over the October 2003 issue) magazine, which the ladies at
the Embassy send, and they immediately search for bare-skinned women.
I usually tell them the truth, and if that answer is “yes,” their response is always
the same. They make a variety of crude gestures indicating they want “to fuck” them.
Then they jab their index and middle finger into the picture’s crotch as hard as possible,
and at least three or four times.
So, apparently they don’t want to just kill us all, they want to rape our women
first, then kill them. Welcome to the real mindset of a Muslim terrorist.
CRAAAACK! Kadir’s hand hit me so hard and so fast that I never even
contemplated blocking it. I was reeling for a second. There was no sense in striking
back. Had I done that, ten more of the bastards would have been down the hall in
seconds. I just wobbled a bit, shook my head, and said, “Whoa, calm down, I just
wanted water. Aab, aab, maan tanha aab mekhwastam, I just wanted water from
Brent.” Kadir was a six foot five two hundred and fifty pound Taliban Commander, and
he was towering over me with his right meat hook hovering for a second blow. My
crime had been saying, “Brent, send me some water,” as I passed his cell on the way
back from the latrine. Kadir was the Bashi, that meant he was in charge of our floor at
NDS. Kadir was not a nice person.
Brent, Ed, and I, were never allowed to communicate. Ed devised an ingenious
system of communication between our cells. The New York Times Sunday Magazine
contains a crossword puzzle in the back. He wrote an encrypted message in the
crossword puzzle then sent me the magazine to read. Pretty soon we were sending
magazines back and forth with messages hidden in the puzzles or in crack of the
magazine’s spine. POWs in Vietnam used Morse Code on the walls of their cages.
Special Forces SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) School teaches you a
variety of classified ways to pass messages, but not crossword puzzles. Amazing how
something like, “how are you holding up? I’m fine,” can give you hope and keep you
Eventually, after our lawyers arrived, we were allowed to walk together on
several occasions and whisper to each other. Of course we had a Klashnikov pointed
directly at us the whole time.
Daily Log Idea here? July 20---We are not allowed to see the “evidence” against us, or
our own evidence (videos, pictures, and documents which were confiscated by the FBI),
or even read the “indictment,” all in violation of even Afghan law. We cannot read, or
even see, the statements of the terrorists or even our Afghan co-defendants. And, God
knows what they admitted to under torture and electrocution. We don’t have attorneys
and so we are not allowed access to the few pictures NDS still has that could prove our
innocence by showing the Afghan government was always with us during operations in
which terrorists were captured.
The evidence doesn’t matter anyway because the FBI took anything that was
important. Then they destroyed the documents between the DOD and us, destroyed or
“lost” all the pictures, and now we find out that they erased the videos that would really
help us. So, we have little proof we were working with DOD, the bad guys were
actually terrorists, or that they were about to kill a presidential candidate, two Ministers,
and blow up American soldiers at Bagram Airbase.
The terrorists are now all free. The FBI had the terrorists released in a deal to
testify again us, and now it boils down to our word against theirs, and they are Muslims.
Not to mention that we were never allowed to speak in court at first, and now that we
are allowed, we aren’t allowed to finish half of our sentences, and none of our
statements or evidence explanations.
Nor are our own interpreters, like Zorro, allowed to interpret for us the dialogue
of what is being said in court. The first time Zorro told us what was being said in court
he ended up in chains and has been there ever since.
But, the court– three judges who barely have an education, no less a law degree–
believe that they are showing the world that Karzai has brought democracy to Central
Pay no attention to the fact that not a single judge has read the Criminal Code for
Courts and have violated more than 90% of the rules governing trials. Or that when I
quote the law in court the lead judge says it’s only a guideline, and doesn’t have any
bearing on a trial. Ignore the fact that the terrorists now want us to pay them for
missing work. Ignore the FBI and Embassy cheering them on and laughing at us openly
in court. The whole event is like a bad acid trip that never ends.
Even the prosecutor has admitted to us privately that we were set up by the FBI
and that the Ministry of Defence would force them to dismiss the case, free us, and send
us after more terrorists the same day, but for Karzai and the FBI, who have allegedly
threatened to put the prosecutors, and the judges in jail if we aren’t convicted.
We save the life of the only candidate that can successfully run against him and
he orders the court to convict us before the trial begins. Meanwhile, the FBI gets
permission to do whatever they want in Afghanistan, even though they have no legal
authority to operate in their “war fighting” role. Since when is Afghanistan the 51st
state? Instead of getting the medals we were promised, we are going to be spending
twenty years in prison with al-Qaida.
Now, why would that be so important to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad? Well,
when was the last time you heard of the president of a foreign country picking the U.S.
ambassador, or better yet, one of his best friends for U.S. ambassador? It is not in
Karzai’s interest, or the State Department’s interest, to have leader like Yunis Qanooni
running for president. While Qanooni is a U.S. ally, and a true friend, he is not a
political lackey without his own will.
Occasionally, in the beginning, I stole one of Sandy’s pens when she wasn’t
paying attention, which is often. It is also how I managed to write this story. But you
can’t hold onto the pen for long because there are a few places to hide a Uni-ball® pen
in a barren concrete cell. After five weeks of bringing water, and having me steal her
pens, Sandy finally just started giving her pens to me.
We sleep on a concrete floor, covered by a worn out filthy wool blanket. The
terrorists have beds, basically mats on the floor. Kafirs are not allowed to have a
mattress. Only human beings are. In other words, Muslim terrorists have beds in our
world here. Americans do not.
Each day brings with it the implied, verbalized, and pantomimed threat to cut off
our ears and noses if we don’t shed our American uniforms and American flags, learn
the Koran, and become a good Muslim. I have no intention of doing any of those
things. Ed is a journalist though. And I am glad he is doing whatever he has to in order
It is his survival I depend on to tell the entire story one day, the real story, and to
let Americans know that this war is the greatest challenge America will ever face. The
FBI will do everything they can to stop him. Including lie, cheat, and steal. That
includes painting him the deadly “T” word, falsifying evidence, and destroying Ed’s
tapes. ???????????? transition ???????
Our enemy hates us. Make no mistake about it. They simultaneously hate and
desire our way of life, our freedom, our unveiled women, our wealth and standard of
living, our freedom of religion, and the terrorists mean to assimilate us into their twisted
interpretation of the Muslim faith– by force, or kill us off to the very last man, woman,
That my American friends, is what this war on terror is all about. Let no
politician tell you differently. Let no Americanized Muslim tell you differently. This is
a religious war, radical Islamic Fundamentalist Muslims against us, the Kafir. I know.
Forget that politically correct crap you hear from politicians and pundits. For the last
three years I have fought and bled with the Northern Alliance against them. I have
captured them, killed them, interrogated them, been tortured by them, lived with them,
and now, finally, share a prison cell with them, And there is always the chance that I
will die with them.
In the end, someone will ask– possibly my widow– if all the pain it has brought
my family, friends, and me, was worth it.
The answer to that question lies in the faces and smiles of all the people we
liberated in Northern Afghanistan– a real liberation where they fought and died next to
us– in the faces and smiles of the kids I saved during the Nahrin earthquake and
countless other places, and all the soldiers I operated on that made it out of the battles.
The answer lies in knowing that Yunis Qanooni lives to the best presidential candidate
to beat Karzai, a restaurant operator that hid in Virginia whiles his countrymen died
fighting the Soviets, the Taliban, and al-Qaida. The same guy who made it big on the
CIA’s payroll but let American Special Forces soldiers like J.D. Davis, Dan Petithory,
and Cody Prosser do his dying for him. That answer lies in knowing that Yunis
Qanooni, wounded four times fighting for his country and America, did not meet the
same fate as his mentor, Commander Massoud.
(So how will I expect to be CT Czar writing this??? Talk about it with Ed)
But most importantly, that answer lies in the future of the hundreds of American
soldiers that will make it home instead of dying in their bunks at Bagram in a ball of
Was it worth it? Damn right it was. Brent and I would have gladly given our life
to anyone one of them, so we give ours freely having saved them all.
Note: Jack Idema wrote this story in August 2004 sitting on the floor of one of the
worst prisons on the planet. The scraps of paper used to record it were smuggled out
one page at a time. While Idema concentrated on recording their story, Brent Bennett
concentrated on planning their escape. The drawings in this article are the actual
escape drawings used by Task Force Saber/7 to plan their break out from the al-Qaida
prison in Kabul. All they were waiting for was notification that the Geneva Convention
Central Information Bureaux in Switzerland had assigned their POW status, making
both a breakout and the collateral force needed, legal. Before that occurred, they were
found guilty at trial, sentenced to ten years, and transferred to Pulacharke Prison,
Afghanistan’s largest and most secure facility, built by the Soviets, and which housed
more than 20,000 prisoners.
Ed Caraballo continued to meld into his surroundings, assimilating the look and feel of
the al-Qaida terrorists they were forced to live with. Caraballo became known as
Najeeb. In the meantime Idema and Bennett set about their new plan, to seize their
hearts and minds by force. Together they worked on gaining their freedom, one way or
another. In the meantime, the Northern Alliance stepped in and helped. This is the rest
of their story….
The Pros From Dover
“Put some relevant quote full of here”
August 26, 2006
There were bad days, and there were good days. The bad days were really bad,
and the good days were just bad. Good days were far and few between.
We had, once again, prevailed in throwing a monkey wrench into the broken
down, totally insane, and dysfunctional Afghan justice system, getting us another week.
The few conversations that Ed, Brent, and I were able to sneak always centered around
the same few subjects. The surreal world we were living in, whether we would ever
survive it to tell our story, how fucked up our al-Qaida prison “mates” were, and who
was driving the bus on the trip to totally fuck us. Was it the U.S. government, the FBI,
or Karzai. We almost always decided it was all three. But our frustration and anger had
re-focused – right now we mostly wanted to kill the two lawyers that had been
promising to show up for almost two months.
If they ever arrived, we discussed, would we hug them, thank them, punch them
out, or kill them? We decided they were never coming, we were on our own.
Kader came to my cell sometime that afternoon and told me to come, “taz
burrow.” He really started bitching when I started putting my boots on waving his arms
like normal, stressed out by my failure to jump like a trained monkey. He rambled
something about Americans and I figured it was either the U.S. Embassy, or the CIA. I
was not about to rush for either, or for anyone for that fucking matter.
As I walked by Brent’s cell I noticed that he was not going, so I excluded the
U.S. Embassy tramp. Ed was at the end of the hall, already waiting, and wearing the
Afghan cloths that drove me crazy. He had no idea where we were going either. Then
Brent joined us. It must have been a visit from the U.S. Embassy.
We went outside the prison building through the rose garden and up two sets of
stairs towards the Commandant’s office. The door to the meeting room was open.
Inside were Ed’s two Afghan lawyers. Sitting on the couch was an older gentleman
slightly balding with grayish white hair. It took a second, and then I realized it was Bob
Foglenest, the criminal defense lawyer I met at the Mustafa Hotel bar four months
before. This was a good day, and spirits lifted quickly. Just as I reached out my hand
and he stood up, I noticed the other man already standing.
John Tiffany was forty, in outstanding physical condition, good looking, square
jawed, and casually dressed, but wearing a tie. A big smile crossed his face and he
skipped the handshake and hugged me.
“Boy am I glad to see you guys,” I said, moving over to Foglenest and hugging
“We got here as soon as we could,” said Tiffany.
“We gave up on you guys weeks ago,” I said.
“Hey, it’s a long story and we’ll tell you all about it when we get time. Were
going to have a long talk and when we’re through you’ll be doing some serious
revisions on your list of friends.”
“Yeah, I can already guess.”
“Oh no you can’t, I’m going to lay it all out for you,” Tiffany said in a classic
New York accent.
Right then I knew I was going to like this guy, but I had no idea then how much I
was going to like them both. I was already impressed with Tiffany’s look and
demeanor. He could easily pass for CIA, and that would be a plus in dealing with the
NDS and other Afghan officials.
Ed and Brent made their introductions and it was like old home week. I sat on
the old wood desk; legs folded Indian style, right on the top.
Rolly was sitting on the couch with the two Afghan lawyers from the ILA. Then,
finally, I noticed another woman sitting in a chair on the other side of the room. She
was stocky, with ragged black head veil, and clothes you would surmise came off a bag
lady in New York City. I glanced at her for less than three seconds, but I knew every
detail. Then I spent an extra 2 seconds staring at her feet. Afghan women were
renowned for their feet. Covered head to ankle, not toe, their blue burhka covered them
completely. Usually your only way to judge a woman’s appearance was by her feet.
Filthy ankles in rubber slippers was not a good sign. A well to do woman might be
wearing mid-heeled sandals with black stockings. A younger woman, high heeled
strapped pumps with fishnets. And the good looking ones would usually have open
toed heels, nicely painted toenails, and always fishnets.
I could have guessed this woman’s appearance in two burkas. Her cheap open
toed well-worn shoes revealed a left stocking missing the entire toe, and a right stocking
with the heel completely torn out.
“And your name is…?” I said hopping off the desk and extending my hand to
“Whabullah, wakiel for Mr. Brent.” She had just told me in Dari that she was
Brent’s new attorney.
“Great, Hoop, great,” I said shaking her hand. Normally shaking hands with a
woman would have been strictly off limits, and I knew this well. But this was a private
personal setting, and Whabullah was an attorney. She needed no burka to enter the
prison– as much as the police hated it – and the handshake was appropriate, barley.
Sitting back up on the desk, I lit another cigarette and everyone finished his or
“Ok, bring us up to speed, where the fuck have you been?” I was looking at
Foglenest and Tiffany.
“Hey it was like pulling teeth trying to get money to get over here,” Foglenest
“Jack, Keith, Jack…” Tiffany said.
“Jack, its Jack, its not Keith, its not Jonathan, its just Jack. I never liked Keith,
and when I was growing up that book Jonathan Livingston Seagull made my life hell in
school. Its Jack, you can make mistakes in just about everything else that goes on here,
after all, its Afghanistan, but don’t make that one again, its Jack.”
“Jack, look, I was dialing for dollars for a straight month. Beau Bauman, the guy
that’s making a movie about you, fuck him, all he kept saying was that the movie didn’t
have an ending yet.”
“The movie has an ending, I, we, caught the terrorists, saved a presidential
candidate, saved a defense minister, saved a thousand Americans from burning alive,
and are now in jail for the rest of our lives. That sounds like a whole damn second
movie and a blockbuster ending.”
“Apparently not to him,” Tiffany explained.
“Maybe he never saw Midnight Express, Hurricane Carter, Pappion, Brokedown
Palace, or a dozen others that ended this way?”
“I know that guy, he stayed at my crib, the guys that was in the Turkish prison,”
Bob Foglenest said. Somehow his use of words “crib” didn’t set well with me. I related
it to the shit that black Detroit gang-bangers “rapped” in federal prison. I ignored the
“Did he give you any money?”
“No,” Tiffany replied.
“Not even a thousand?”
“Nothing, zip, zero,” Tiffany explained.
“I’ll deal with that prick when I get back,” I said quietly. Inside I was
disappointed, fuming. I had sold Beau Bauman the rights to my story during the
Afghan war, my fight alongside the Northern Alliance, for about two million. I liked
Beau, and signed a deal that required not one penny down until the movie was in final
production. And he knew I would be using all the money to continue my personal war
against al-Qaida and bin Laden. A personal war that would continue until that Saudi
bastard’s head was in a burlap bag soaked in his blood.
We all sat down and got comfortable, but not before Foglenest quietly warned us
not to trust Brent’s new lawyer. Apparently she had already confirmed her
incompetence, and ignorance, in a meeting with the judge that morning. I explained
that it probably did not matter letting her stay in the room, it was obvious that she had
not a clue to a single word of English.
Foglenest immediately took control of the meeting, the conversation, and the
direction. That was not something I was either used to or prepared for. Still, I grit my
teeth and held back, they were after all, at least we hoped the pros from Dover, and our
ticket out of hell.
“Look, I’m from New York City, I lost a lot of friends in 9/11, some of my best
friends. I am here on a mission; we need guys like you. We need someone to fight
these bastards, and we sure can’t rely on the FBI and CIA to protect us. I will not desert
you guys. I’m going to get you out of here,” Foglenest paused and motioned to Tiffany.
“We’re going to get you out of here.”
“That’s what I’m counting on,” Ed told him.
“Well, Jack…and Brent, don’t take this wrong, but my first responsibility is to
Ed, he’s my client, but we view this as a joint defense, either we prove you all innocent,
or you all go down. That’s where our defense strategy differentiates from Skibbie’s.”
“Yeah, what the hell was he thinking about?” Tiffany said.
“Hey, Skibbie was an idiot, a public defender from New Hampshire that
probably never won a case and came to Afghanistan on a vacation, to get laid, and to
see the sites and add it to his resume.”
“Well that was pretty stupid, nobody gets laid in this country,” I said.
“Yeah these are the most homophobic, sexually repressed, psychologically
disturbed people in the world,” Ed pointed out.
“What, you mean there’s no hookers here?” Foglenest said.
“There’s some at the Chinese restaurant, but none that I would fuck,” I answered.
“I came back to Afghanistan because I was relying on you to set me up and point
the way to the best private bars and hookers,” Bob smiled. “Hell, that’s why I was
making friends with you guys at the Mustafa bar. I figured guys in black, carrying
machineguns into bars had to have a handle on the hotspots.”
We all laughed, and I changed the subject.
“I came here to kill terrorists, liberate a country, and stop another 9/11, not bang
Chinese hookers,” I said smiling.
“Please, enough with the talk about Chinese hookers.” Ed said
“You got a problem with hookers?” Foglenest asked laughing.
“No, he’s got a problem with Chinese women, his ex-wife is a bona fide, slanteyed
bitch,” I said jumping in.
“Hey we all got one of those,” Foglenest said.
“Not me, I’m not only friends with al of my ex’s, I’m still in love with them all.
And its only gotten better my wife now is not just my mate and partner, she is my soul
mate and a little commando,” I said.
“Well I can’t attest to your wife’s attitude,” Tiffany said looking at Ed, “she
wouldn’t even give us any documents or evidence to prove you were a journalist.”
“That figures. She’s an executive producer at ABC News, they specialize in
uptight domineering vindictive ruthless control freaks,” Ed replied. I’d met Diana, and
he was not exaggerating. Her last two years had been dedicated to destroying Ed's life,
and seizing total control of their beautiful baby girl.
“Your wife has got some issues too,” Tiffany said looking at me. I knew what he
was talking about already, but he explained anyway. “Sometimes I couldn’t reach her
for weeks, she’d just drop off the face of the earth. Then I would get her on the phone
and get some wild story. Promises of money sent that never arrived, and irrational
behavior,” I let Tiffany talk, I could sense he needed to get it all out. “And I wasn’t
asking for much, just enough to get here and pay expenses.”
“Look, I know Viktoria’s got problems, but in her defense, most women couldn’t
last seven weeks in my lifestyle, no less seven years. Last time I told her I was going to
deliver food to refugees after 9/11 for three weeks and didn’t come home for a year.
She thought I was delivering humanitarian aid next thing she sees me on MSNBC
putting my bleeding best friend on a medevac truck, and on CNN blowing up Taliban
tanks. At least three times in six months people called her and told her I was either dead
or mortally wounded. By the time I did get home she was drinking a bottle of Vodka a
day. And when I finally got her stable again, bang, I’m off chasing terrorists for another
six months and bin laden himself puts a quarter million dollar hit on my head. Then I
get home, take her to the beach once leave on another three week mission, then the FBI
puts a wanted poster out for me, and five months later I’m in a Taliban torture chamber
strapped to the wall being beat to death by our former allies and I’m the one being
accused of torture,” I paused and lit another cigarette. “So, what do you think? You
think there are women in the world that could maintain their sanity and remain stable
living in my world?”
“I don’t think there is anyone that can survive in your world, that’s why I think
we need Ed out of here as soon as possible. So don’t get pissed if I try to bargain him
out first,” Bob said, “it doesn’t mean we don’t want you all out, and won’t keep trying.”
“Hey, you’ll get no argument from me or Brent,” I said very matter of factly.”
“I want us all out,” Ed said.
“Ignore him, he has no idea of what he’s gotten into, what he’s doing, or what’s
about to happen,” I leaned forward on the desk, took a long drag of my cigarette, and
proceeded while everyone else was still trying to dissect my last sentence. “I only need
you to do two things while you are here. One – get me access to the evidence room,
alone. Two– get Ed out. I could give a damn about getting Brent or me, or my Afghans
out. We signed up for this war”– I pointed at Brent and myself– “Ed came as a
journalist. I knew all the risks, and intentionally withheld several of them from
everyone, including Brent and Ed.” Bob interrupted me.
“John and I have accessed this, unless we get the three of you out, none of you
will get out.”
I raised my voice and forcefully interjected, “You’ve been in Afghanistan about
24 hours, you have no fucking idea of what the situation is counselor,” I paused
realizing I was being a little too combative with the guys that had just flown 8,000 miles
into a combat zone to help us. “Look, you just get Ed out and me into the evidence
room, and your job is done. Ed will get the rest of us out, even if it takes a year.”
“Of course we will try to get Ed out of here alone if we can’t get you all out, but
we want all three of you home.” Bob Fogelnest said, finally beginning to grasp that I
had a plan not yet revealed.
“All seven of us?”
“What?” Fogelnest asked.
“Seven of us,” I answered.
“I thought there were just three of you?” Tiffany then asked.
“Seven of us including our four Afghans,” Brent said. I smiled. Brent barely
spoke in the meeting, in fact not at all after initial introductions. I returned a cocky
smile, Brent knew exactly where I was heading. Ed was engrossed in looking at a
plastic folder of pictures Bob had given him of his baby girl, dad, and dog.
“Did you guys read The Hunt for Bin Laden before you got here?”
“Yes,” Tiffany answered, “of course.”
“I’m reading it now,” Bob said.
“Well read faster if you want to understand what is going on in this world. And
finish it, then you’ll understand what I am talking about,” I said.
“Why don’t you…” I cut him off.
“We leave no man behind! Do you understand? No man, American or Afghan.
Anything less is unacceptable. Brent and I will hang with them if need be,” Ed shot me
one of his disdaining looks communicating displeasure for my flair for the dramatic in
an argument. But this was a non-negotiable point. “Let me say that one more time so it
sinks in. We leave NO man behind. If you don’t understand that concept now you will
by the time you leave here.”
“Jack’s right,” Ed said, “We have to get the Afghans out with us, we all have to
“Ed doesn’t know what he is talking about,” get him out, get a package I give
you out, and then Ed can get us all out.”
“Well, were discussing deportation of you all,” Bob said, “that could be a double
“Not an option. No option at all, pursue it for Ed, but not for Brent or me,” I told
0000 Hours, August ?, 2004
Dawarty answered his cell phone, “Bali.”
“We might have a problem,” the caller on the other end needed no introduction.
It was the voice of General Prosecutor Fatah.
“The American lawyers have arrived in Kabul and are at the prison now meeting
with the Americans now.”
“I know, they called and requested I meet them there. I told them I was too busy
today. But what is the problem.”
“Are we sure they’re lawyers and not CIA?” Fatah asked.
“I’m not sure of anything right now, but what makes you think they are anything
but lawyers?” Dawarty asked.
“Why has the CIA been completely quiet on this? Why have they not contacted
us to discuss this matter? And I just received a call from Commander Mustak at the jail.
He say’s they don’t look or act like lawyers.”
“Well general, they are American lawyers.”
“So was Michael,” the general said referring to Skibbie.
“They are very aggressive, but more importantly, they are not wearing suits, just
“It’s hot,” Dawarty replied.
“Shirts, pants, and ties made in Afghanistan with the folds and look that they just
came out of a package in Kabul. CIA posing as lawyers. I want you over there now.”
“Bali,” Dawarty was already on the way to his car before the general hung up the