Military Operations in the 2000s

Operations in Afghanistan

(Operation Enduring Freedom)


2004 - 2008

Materials arranged chronologically.

Coll, Steve.

This series of articles is based on Coll's Ghost Wars (2004).

1. "A Secret Hunt Unravels in Afghanistan: Mission to Capture or Kill al Qaeda Leader Frustrated by Near Misses, Political Disputes." Part 1 of 2. Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2004, A1. []

"In the years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the CIA carried out a secret but ultimately unsuccessful manhunt for [Osama] bin Laden. It was based at first on [a] band of Afghan tribal agents, and later expanded to include other agents and allies.... But the search became mired in mutual frustrations, near misses and increasingly bitter policy disputes in Washington between the Clinton White House and the CIA."

2. "Flawed Ally Was Hunt's Best Hope: Afghan Guerrilla, U.S. Shared Enemy." Part 2 of 2. Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2004, A1. []

In October 1999, the CIA plan was to initiate "secret intelligence and combat operations against bin Laden in partnership with guerrilla commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance."

However, "Massoud was seen by some at the Pentagon and inside the Clinton Cabinet as a spent force commanding bands of thugs.... Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Henry H. 'Hugh' Shelton ... argued that Massoud's alliance was tainted and in decline. But at the CIA,... career officers passionately described Massoud ... as the United States' last, best hope to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan before his al Qaeda network claimed more American lives." Massoud was assassinated on 9 September 2001.

3. "Legal Disputes Over Hunt Paralyzed Clinton's Aides." Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2004, A17. []

"Between 1998 and 2000, the CIA and President Bill Clinton's national security team were caught up in paralyzing policy disputes as they secretly debated the legal permissions for covert operations against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. The debates left both White House counterterrorism analysts and CIA career operators frustrated and at times confused about what kinds of operations could be carried out."

Scarborough, Rowan. "U.S. Search for bin Laden Intensifies." Washington Times, 23 Feb. 2004. []

"The Pentagon is moving elements of a supersecret commando unit from Iraq to the Afghanistan theater to step up the hunt for Osama bin Laden. A Defense Department official said there are two reasons for repositioning parts of Task Force 121: First, most high-value human targets in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein, have been caught or killed. Second, intelligence reports are increasing on the whereabouts of bin Laden, the terror leader behind the September 11 attacks."

Priest, Dana, and Kamran Khan. "Al Qaeda Leaders May Be Cornered: Pakistani Forces Wage Battle on Afghan Border." Washington Post, 19 Mar. 2004, A1. []

According to senior Pakistani and U.S. officials on 18 March 2004, "Pakistani security forces backed by U.S. spy planes were engaged in a pitched battle with tribal fighters and Islamic militants who were believed to be protecting key members of al Qaeda.... Hundreds of Pakistani troops backed by artillery and helicopter gunships were on the attack around the villages of Azam Warsak, Kaloosha and Shin Warsak in remote southern Waziristan province, officials said....

"As part of the coordinated spring offensive, U.S. troops are working the other side of the border in Afghanistan. The forces include the clandestine Task Force 121, a recently reconstituted Special Operations and CIA unit, other Special Forces teams and 11,000 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, said several U.S. defense officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Small CIA paramilitary teams are also active in the region, several counterterrorism officials said.

"Supporting the U.S. and Pakistani troops is a newly refined technology that allows for the quick processing and analysis of images and communications intercepts from U.S. Air Force spy planes, CIA drones and National Security Agency satellites. New techniques allow for speedy transfer of the information to commanders in the field, said counterterrorism officials."

Schmidt, Susan, and Dana Priest. "Civilian Charged In Beating of Afghan Detainee." Washington Post, 18 Jun. 2004, A1. []

On 17 June 2004, a grand jury in North Carolina indicted David A. Passaro, "[a] former Army Special Forces soldier working as a contractor for the CIA in Afghanistan," on charges of "brutally assaulting a prisoner during three days of interrogations that ended in the Afghan man's death" on 21 June 2003. A U.S. official said that "Passaro was part of a clandestine paramilitary team made up of U.S. Special Forces and CIA personnel who capture and interrogate Taliban and al Qaeda members."

Wright, Robin. "In From the Cold and Able to Take the Heat." Washington Post, 12 Sep. 2005, A17. []

"[A]fter almost a quarter-century as a spy or station chief on at least four continents, [Henry 'Hank'] Crumpton has emerged from undercover to take the job as State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism -- with the very public rank of ambassador."

Crumpton "is the mysterious 'Henry' in the Sept. 11 commission report, which notes he persistently pressed the CIA to do more in Afghanistan before Osama bin Laden's terrorist spectaculars.... Tapped to head the CIA's Afghan campaign after the attacks, Crumpton is 'Hank' in Gary C. Schroen's 'First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan' and Bob Woodward's 'Bush at War.' Both books recount how Crumpton crafted a strategy partnering elite intelligence and military officers in teams that worked with the Afghan opposition.... The novel and initially controversial approach worked at limited cost in human life and materiel -- and avoided the kind of protracted U.S. ground war that the Soviet Union lost."

Wright, Robin. "State Dept. Losing a Top Figure in Terror War." Washington Post, 19 Dec. 2006, A5. []

According to a senior official on 18 December 2006, State Department counterterrorism chief Henry A. "Hank" Crumpton will leave the government in the new year. Crumpton, a career CIA covert officer, took over the State Department job in August 2005.

Harding, Thomas. "Exclusive: SAS Chief Quits Over 'Negligence That Killed His Troops.'" Telegraph (London), 1 Nov. 2008. []

Maj. Sebastian Morley, commander of D Squadron, 23 SAS, in Afghanistan, "has resigned..., accusing the Government of 'gross negligence' over the deaths of four of his soldiers.... Morley claims that Whitehall officials and military commanders repeatedly ignored his warnings that people would be killed if they continued to allow troops to be transported in the vulnerable Snatch Land Rovers."

Warrick, Joby. "Little Blue Pills Among the Ways CIA Wins Friends in Afghanistan." Washington Post, 26 Dec. 2008, A1. []

"[A]ccording to officials directly involved in such operations," CIA "efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains" in Afghanistan have included "a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos....

"Officials say these inducements are necessary in Afghanistan, a country where warlords and tribal leaders expect to be paid for their cooperation, and where, for some, switching sides can be as easy as changing tunics. If the Americans don't offer incentives, there are others who will, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents in the region."

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