Kill Bin Laden : A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man
The mission was to kill the most wanted man in the world--an operation of such magnitude that it couldn't be handled by just any military or intelligence force. The best America had to offer was needed. As such, the task was handed to roughly forty members of America's supersecret counterterrorist unit formerly known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta; more popularly, the elite and mysterious unit Delta Force.
The American generals were flexible. A swatch of hair, a drop of blood, or simply a severed finger wrapped in plastic would be sufficient. Delta's orders were to go into harm's way and prove to the world bin Laden had been terminated.
These Delta warriors had help: a dozen of the British Queen's elite commandos, another dozen or so Army Green Berets, and six intelligence operatives from the CIA who laid the groundwork by providing cash, guns, bullets, intelligence, and interrogation skills to this clandestine military force. Together, this team waged modern siege of epic proportions against bin Laden and his seemingly impenetrable cave sanctuary burrowed deep inside the Spin Ghar Mountain range in eastern Afghanistan.
Over the years, since the battle ended, scores of news stories have surfaced offering tidbits of information about what actually happened in Tora Bora. Most of it is conjecture and speculation.
This is the real story of the operation, the first eyewitness account of the Battle of Tora Bora, and the first book to detail just how close Delta Force came to capturing bin Laden, how close U.S. bombers and fighter aircraft came to killing him, and exactly why he slipped through our fingers. Lastly, this is an extremely rare inside look at the shadowy world of Delta Force and a detailed account of these warriors in battle.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Very exciting. Seems accurate.
Posted January 14, 2009 by Ted , Virginia BeachThis books shines a bright light on the heroism, intelligence and drive of our elite service members. It also casts a dark shadow over the knuckle heads running our government and military.
2 . We had Bin Laden...
Posted December 24, 2008 by Brian , Royal Palm BeachPersonally know a few of the people from this part of the military. I have no doubt this is what very likely happened. We had Bin Laden and let him get away.
St. Martin's Press
October 05, 2008
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Excerpt from Kill Bin Laden by Dalton Fury
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
T . S . E L I O T
By December 2001, only three months after America was attacked on September 11, Delta Force was already on the ground in enemy territory, an elite group of American commandos cutting their teeth in this new war on terror by rampaging from cave to cave in Afghanistan's snow-covered Tora Bora Mountains, hot on the heels of Usama bin Laden and laying waste to scores of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
The vicious fighting did not last long, however, and by December 17, our frustrating allies, the Afghan mujahideen, felt they had done and seen enough to publicly declare victory. The muhj looted some conquered caves, pillaged the dead terrorists, and came down from the rugged mountains for a triumphant return to the ancient city of Jalalabad, where they licked their wounds and took stock of their hard-earned treasure.
Of course, the main objective of the attack had been to kill or capture bin Laden, and despite the optimistic claims of the muhj, we were not sure that had been accomplished. His body had not been recovered from the rubble in the mountains after the fighting. Could he have been buried alive in one of several hundred caves? Did his most loyal fighters secretly remove his remains from the area?
If bin Laden survived, nobody was saying so. Maybe a helicopter belonging to the unreliable Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence, a longtime Taliban supporter, had scooped him up and ferried him across the border. Perhaps he put on a woman's burkha and slid into the back of a taxicab for a drive southwest to his old stomping grounds in Khost? Or did he ride bareback on a white stallion through the high mountain passes and trot safely into Pakistan? Did he just sling his AK-47 comfortably over his shoulder and simply walk out under his own power, helped by nothing more advanced than a wooden cane? And if bin Laden did happen to survive, was he wounded? If so, how bad? Was there a doctor who tended his battle wounds? A lot of questions and no answers. No one knew.
As the months slowly passed, Usama bin Laden's disposition-dead or alive-remained a mystery to even the most advanced intelligence services. Not a single acronymed agency could say for sure. The CIA, NSA, FBI, DEA, DOD, DOJ, MI5, and MI6 knew little more than the general public. No videos or authentic audiotapes of bin Laden had been released during that crucial time, and every possibility was examined at one time or another in scores of newspapers, magazines and online postings from all corners of the globe. In the absence of proof, it was all complete speculation.
So a year later, as the winter of 2002 approached, Delta theorized that the answers to the unanswered questions might lie in retracing our steps in Tora Bora, where someone still in the area might be holding the secret to how he escaped. Maybe by backtracking, we could finally put the jigsaw puzzle together and provide some actionable intelligence. Someone still in the area might be holding the secret that would provide us with some clue, some trace of bin Laden.
Delta Force had never left Afghanistan, and less than a year after the original battle in the mountains, our squadron found itself rotating back into the country, just in time to hunt the elusive, ghostlike leadership of the Taliban and al Qaeda during the Christmas and New Year holidays. If we could not be with our families for that special season, what possible better alternative was there to being in a war zone with Delta teammates? To a man, we were proud to be there.
Unfortunately, the operational pace had not improved much from the previous year, because intelligence was still so scarce on our high-value targets. Usama bin Laden remained HVT no. 1, and his right-hand man, the Egyptian terrorist Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, was HVT no. 2. Unfortunately, both still wear those designations at the time of this writing, and continue thumbing their noses at the international community.
We spent many days and nights looking for a golden nugget. For countless hours, we studied satellite imagery of suspected bad-guy compounds, patiently watched hour after hour of live video from the Predator drone aircraft, and analyzed stacks of classi.ed military intelligence reports or CIA cable traffic. Everything required close attention if we hoped to discover some inkling or HVT signature that would show that our targets were indeed down there.
That was not enough, because if we found something, we had to be ready to move instantly. We spent long stints on the local pistol and rifle ranges and worked out hard in a gym that looked like a circus tent, where we pumped iron and burned calories on the treadmills. To hone the fine edge that Delta demands, we repeatedly rehearsed various mission profiles with the expert .yboys from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). Some of what little time was left over was spent doing things like enjoying DVD miniseries movies like The Sopranos and Band of Brothers.
Finally, a nugget was turned up through hard work by the CIA and a bunch of rough-and-tumble, tobacco-chewing good ole boys with thick beards, Green Berets with a Special Forces Group of the Alabama National Guard.
The neighbors of an Afghan gentleman whom we will call Gul Ahmed had dimed him out to CIA assets. He lived in the large Agam Valley, a dry and rocky riverbed that sprawled along a north-south axis thousands of feet below and to the east of bin Laden's Tora Bora sanctuary. A single-lane road had been cut through the valley by the bulldozers and earthmovers of the construction company owned by Usama bin Laden's family in Saudi Arabia during the jihad against the Soviet Union. Legend had it that a young bin Laden himself rolled up his sleeves and worked that land from the seat of a bulldozer.
The suspect, Ahmed, was not only a well-known local supporter of al Qaeda, but also managed an elaborate weapons cache operation up and down the strategic valley that leads directly across the border and into Pakistan.
Besides his propensity for dealing arms to terrorists, insurgents, and the highest bidders among area tribes, the dossier said, Gul Ahmed also was a key figure during the previous year's fighting, which took place almost within earshot of his backyard. The turncoat neighbors said that Ahmed and his sons provided logistical support--food, water, medical supplies, firewood, and ammunition--to al Qaeda during the battle.
These acts alone made him a personality worth targeting, but not necessarily important enough that the gig had to be executed by Delta. The Green Berets from Alabama were more than capable of rounding up Gul Ahmed and his relatives. However, there was something special about this cat.
One key piece of information threw the ball into Delta's court. Ahmed allegedly had hidden a severely weakened and wounded Usama bin Laden in his home for three days the previous year, while hundreds of mujahideen and forty or so Western commandos painstakingly searched the mountains for the al Qaeda leader. The intelligence packet also claimed that toward the end of the battle, Gul Ahmed's hospitality and tribal contacts were reported to have been good enough to smuggle the terrorist mastermind through a snow-swathed mountain pass that was just seven miles to the south, and out of our reach.
Well, well. That changed things a little bit and made it a little more personal. Mr. Ahmed was given the moniker of a "known al Qaeda supporter," a designation normally accompanied by a mission statement of "kill or capture." Again, that alone was no big deal, but pulling it off would have a rather pleasant spin that would make the assault troops tighten our chinstraps a little tighter and affix our olive drab Velcro American flags a little straighter on our shoulders. If this intelligence on Gul Ahmed was true, it would provide the .rst viable lead on anyone that could help us piece together the puzzle of how bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora.
The thought of going back into Tora Bora was exhilarating. We couldn't have been happier to visit this gentleman's family and pay our respects.
We needed to know if the HUMINT--intelligence gleaned from humans--of bin Laden .nding a refuge, even for a short time, in this al Qaeda facilitator's house was factual. It would have been nice for everybody if we could have simply dropped in to see the man during the day. Sit around cross-legged on a colorful Afghan rug, sip some lukewarm tea, and grub on nuts and dried dates while we asked a few questions.
Somehow we felt that would not work. This gentleman probably would respond only to a little more aggression.
The .rst order of business was to locate Ahmed's bedroom, and one of the best reconnaissance operators in the business volunteered for the job. He was known in Delta as Shrek, affectionately named after the movie cartoon character with whom he shared a similar large and muscular build. He sported a deep bronze tan from the sun's glare off the snowy peaks in northern Afghanistan, and much of his face was covered by a thick brown beard that he had grown over many months. Shrek might draw notice on a street corner in Iowa, but would .t in well among the Afghan locals. He had proven his skills time and again, and as much as any Delta operator, Shrek had developed a good feel for the people of the area and understood the very different culture in which honor, hospitality, and revenge are valued like Americans cherish baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. He had been decorated for valor while chasing bin Laden through the mountains almost a year earlier, and in my opinion there was no better man for this job.
We had a lot of information, but Shrek would hopefully provide us with actionable intelligence we needed to present the situation for a strike to our higher command. Intelligence had to be actionable. Not a guess, not too sketchy, and not too old to receive approval to execute a mission. No actionable intelligence equaled no mission launch and typically would send the whole lot of us back to sliding another movie into the DVD player or pumping more iron under the big tent.
We were asking Shrek to hang it all out, to undertake the sort of mission that most American men can only experience vicariously through Tom Clancy novels or Tom Cruise Hollywood thrillers. On his own, he would have to burrow into a dangerous haystack that was made up of dozens of log-and-mud-walled adobes jammed together on a steep, terraced ridgeline, and discover the needle that was the home of Gul Ahmed.
"Oh, yeah," I added during the initial briefing, putting one more big task on his broad shoulders. "While you are there, we also need you to confirm that Mr. Ahmed is at home and not shopping across the border in Pakistan."
As Shrek made his .nal preparations, I stopped by his tent and found him dressing for success with a well-worn Afghan mujahideen outfit, including the baggy drawstring pants and a shirt down to his knees. The one thing wrong with his attire was that a red and green baseball cap with the emblem of the Hard Rock Caf?--Washington, D.C., a souvenir he had picked up when we were in the nation's capital six months earlier, was perched on his hairy head. He replaced it with an old, .oppy wool hat of the kind worn by the muhj.
Both of us were on our third tours in Afghanistan, and although we had discussed and briefed back the plan several times, we felt more comfortable with the mission when we could look each other in the eyes one last time. It was important that he understood exactly how we expected to communicate, what was critical to report immediately, and what could wait. More important, I wanted to give Shrek that warm and fuzzy confirmation that, should shit go wrong out there, the boys would pause The Sopranos and come to the rescue. He might be working alone, but he was Delta, part of the team. However, we both knew the truth was that we would not magically appear at his side whenever he rubbed the magic bottle. From Bagram, we would need two hours in a helicopter traveling as hard and as fast as the pilots could push it. Nothing we could do to change that.
Into a small bag, the meticulous professional delicately placed a mini video camera that he needed to capture critical information for the assault force; the structure of the walls, type of doors, location of the door hinges, height of window sills, high wires, possible approach routes, the locations of armed guards, possible escape routes, and a dozen other things. He added a small handheld global positioning system, or GPS, that would provide the exact coordinates that would be critical for any surgical clandestine operation. Last in the bag was a small satellite phone that would serve as his only link to us, the lifeline to his teammates and safety.
Finally, Shrek picked up his most precious weapon, his baby, a 7.62mm German-made H&K G3 assault rifle topped with a HOLOsight red dot scope, IPTAL infrared laser, and a high-powered CQB light. He rubbed it warmly.
"Hey, brother, aren't you gonna have a heck of a time hiding that weapon from curious locals and the muhj you come in contact with?" I asked.
Shrek looked at me sideways, with those piercing eyes almost hidden behind all that thick hair. He looked scary. He carefully placed his prized H&K rifle under his sleeping bag to protect it from the horrendous fine dust that inevitably covered everything. "Dalton, I'm only saying goodbye for a few days, but like some of our old ladies back home, she would be pissed at me for leaving her behind." His personal protection on this trip would be a folding-stock 7.62mm AK-47 assault rifle, which could be easily hidden under his robes.
Shrek was happy. I wondered if we would ever see him again.
In the city of Jalalabad, Shrek caught a ride for the long trip south to Tora Bora on what might be considered a bus, but was only a clunker of a foreign-made minivan from the 1980s. The other passengers were a dozen Afghan men who ranged in age from seven to seventy, and it was crowded and stuffy. He adjusted his uncomfortable position because the hidden AK-47 was jabbing him in his lower left side.
Growing bored, his thoughts drifted to home and his old pickup truck. That beat-up beast looked strange enough by itself, but its driver, a big, bearded man in ragged civilian clothing, resembled a terrorist on steroids. After 9/11, when all military posts upped their gate security and started strict checks on suspicious vehicles and people, even the greenest military policeman could not resist pulling it over, and Shrek would be stopped three out of five days a week. But now, as an American commando on a singleton mission, his truck seemed like heaven compared to the bus, and home was very far away.
He didn't dare to speak to the other passengers, since he was trying to pass as an Afghan. When the jitney crossed tribal lines, he had to contend with armed checkpoint guards who were hungry for whatever booty for passage they could draw from the unsuspecting and unprotected strangers on the little bus. Discomfort and danger he could handle. It was the stench trapped inside the small minivan that was his worst problem. As he jolted along, Shrek prayed for a head cold and a stuffy nose, and wondered: Don't these guys ever take a friggin' bath?
The rest of us set up back at the air base to plan the hit, and we would spend days reviewing possible courses of action, throwing out ideas or techniques we knew would be useless for this particular mission.
There were about three dozen buildings in the general target area, and just to the south, four more buildings were built into a 60-degree slope that ascended to the west behind them. Ahmed would be in one of those four. Below the houses was row after row of damp, terraced farm fields that stair-stepped down to the rocky valley floor.
Recent satellite imagery showed hundreds of bomb craters that were still recognizable, even a year later. Several days were spent conducting a detailed terrain study that led to a big decision: We discarded the use of helicopters for insertion. After weighing the risks versus gain and the chance of compromise, we decided to go with our own version of the Trojan horse. Of course, it was not a new idea.
In 1400 b.c. at a place called Troy, the Greeks built a large wooden horse as a gift to the Trojans, who had proven to be a formidable foe after two deadly engagements. The Trojans accepted the strange present and hauled it through the gates of the city wall. That same night, following several hours of strong drink and feasting, the Trojans fell into a deep sleep, allowing Greek warriors Achilles and Odysseus, along with a couple of dozen commandos, to silently slip from the horse's belly and attack. The legendary impregnable city of Troy was sacked. Delta had first contemplated using the Trojan horse concept back in 1979 while developing courses of action to rescue the fifty-three American hostages seized by Iranian militants in Tehran.* During the months of planning for Operation Eagle Claw, one option was to drive across the border from Turkey and into Iran hidden in the back of trucks. The overall option was discarded as being too risky and providing zero flexibility, but the idea remained.
The final plan for that Iran raid was to go in by helicopter to a rendezvous point roughly fifty miles from Tehran, load onto civilian trucks stashed at the hide site, and drive to the target area under the cover of darkness. Once at the embassy compound, the bearded operators in blue jeans and black dyed army issue field jackets planned to scale the ten-foot wall and rescue the hostages. That entire mission, of course, was aborted when a sudden sandstorm intervened, wrecking helicopters and costing lives.
At this point, I must preserve some details of our own updated Trojan horse scheme in Afghanistan to protect the tactic for future operations. Suffice it to say that if a bored Afghan militiaman at a roadblock separating tribal lines looked in the back of either truck, the farthest thing from his mind would be that the actual load was a dozen American commandos on a business outing.
We procured a couple of standard Afghan cargo trucks that suited us just fine. White tarps with large innocuous lettering stamped on the sides were tied to rusty metal rails along the truck beds. It was critically important that the trucks appear normal to casual or curious eyes. They had to appear boring, but simultaneously also be obvious, and appear as large, loud nuisances that needed to be quickly moved out of the way so things could be brought back to normal at any checkpoint. We would be hiding in plain sight.
But to make it work, we also had to surrender some advantages. There would be no sandbagged floors to protect us from the blast of a land mine, tossed grenade, or roadside bomb, and no armored plating to provide 360-degree protection from gunshots or shrapnel. That sort of heavy protection would add a lot of weight to the trucks and make them sag on their axles, and therefore draw unwanted attention.
Twenty-two Delta operators donned desert camouflage fatigues kitted up with black or green Kevlar helmets and green, black, or tan vests with ceramic plates to provide basic lifesaving protection against the thundering velocity of a 7.62mm round .red from an AK-47 rifle.
All of us wore custom-sewn web gear that resembled souped-up Batman belts more than anything military. These vests provided a pocket or clip for everything imaginable--various explosive grenades, .ash-bang stun grenades, six thirty-round magazines of 5.56mm ammunition, six spare pistol magazines, quick-tie tourniquets, .ex cuffs, Spyderco or Horrigan special knives, handheld infrared pointer, Garmin GPS, spare batteries, tubular nylon, snap link, Leatherman tool, mechanical breaching tools, explosive charges, and fuse igniter systems. Finally, we also had one item that none of us ever wanted to use--special medical kits to stop a buddy's bleeding, or your own.
Each helmet was adorned with state-of-the-art flip-up ANVS-9 night vision goggles, or NVGs. Peltor ear protection, of the type worn by shooters and hunters, was connected to each operator's interteam personal radio. Each operator was armed with personalized suppressed M-4 assault rifles and the sidearm of choice--M-1911 or Glock variant--all professionally tooled and pampered by the best gunsmiths in the world. The year before, we had dressed for battle in garb indigenous to the country. This time we carried a lot more bells and whistles.
Most guys wore a subdued three-and-a-half-inch-by-two-inch American flag velcroed on their shoulder, chest, or helmet. Some chose a full-color flag and others chose the patches of the New York City Fire Department or the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. A few mavericks had patches that I have no idea what they represented. All wore black and luminous yellow call sign patches on their shoulders--a common practice in every special operations unit and since adopted by many conventional units. In Delta Force, the uniform standard is largely personal choice. Sure, some things are required, such as the color of fatigue top, needed to recognize friend or foe while moving through dark back alleys and shadowy hallways, or the specific equipment that must be carried by each team member. But comfort and efficiency are the most important factors in dressing for close combat. Bloused pants, shined boots, and starched fatigues are hard to find inside Delta. As long as an operator can do his job on target--slide down a rope from a hovering helicopter, enter the breach, eliminate the threat efficiently, and dominate the room--why should I care if he wears a Mickey Mouse patch or one from his local hometown bail bond service? Time is precious and we spend it on the important stuff and take great care not to get run up a tree by the proverbial Chihuahua.
In Delta, big-boy rules apply.
As things came together, we broke another operator, Ski, away from a staff job he had been assigned to do at Bagram to go down to the Jalalabad safe house and give Shrek some company. Ski was more than happy to get away from the computers in order to have the possibility of some action. A Green Beret in his previous life, Ski's jet-black hair hung unevenly from under his wool hat, reached his collar in the back, and hid his forehead and even his eyebrows in the front. His beard was so thick that it ran up his cheeks to just below his eyes. When he spoke, it almost seemed as if a ventriloquist were nearby, because if you were hard of hearing, the only indication that he was talking was the jerky up-and-down movement of the Marlboro cigarette between his lips.