On September 11th, 2001, four simultaneous terrorist attacks kill nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
Half a world away, Usama bin Ladin and his al-Qaida terrorists celebrate in Afghanistan, their presumed safe haven under the protection of the Taliban regime.
Fifteen days later, a CIA Mi-17 helicopter—tail number 091101—slips into Afghanistan and lands in the Panjshir Valley, the last outpost of anti-Taliban resistance.
Our Afghan allies are waiting. They are ready.
Three weeks later, CIA’s Team Alpha becomes the first US force to be inserted behind enemy lines. The team consists of four paramilitary officers, two operations officers, one medic and one Green Beret officer detailed to the CIA. Team member Mike Spann—call sign Badger Six—will become the first US causality of the War on Terror and the 79th star on the CIA Memorial Wall.
Team Alpha and the U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret Operational Detachment Alpha 595 team up with Afghan partners, mostly ethnic Uzbek cavalrymen.
Many had been fighting the Taliban long before US forces arrived in Afghanistan. These Afghans fight shoulder-to-shoulder with their American comrades-in-arms, protecting them in combat and even sacrificing their lives.
In 2002, Team Alpha’s deployment ended, but almost all of their partners went on to serve in the Afghan military, intelligence service, or police forces and continued to work closely with United States and coalition forces
They took great risks then and continued to do so throughout the conflict. Most were targeted for assassination, and many were targeted for assassination or killed in action.
For the next two decades, our loyal Afghan allies fight alongside US-led coalition forces to battle al-Qaida terrorists and extremist networks backed by the exiled Taliban. US and coalition partners suffered over 3,500 killed in action. Estimates of Afghan security force losses range upwards of 70,000 dead.
When the U.S. left Afghanistan in 2021, these earliest allies were abandoned, some still fighting on the battlefield.
In the months that followed, those who did not get out of the country have been, along with their family members, hounded by the Taliban, and in some cases tortured and killed.
The threat to these Afghan heroes—our allies, our partners, our friends—remains critical today. But their story is not over.