How the Army’s Elite Delta Force performed a record mission against the Taliban just weeks after 9/11


September 11th attack

Marty Lederhandler / AP

  • Hours after the attack on September 11, the US military began planning a response.

  • The Pentagon turned to its special operations force to send a message to the Taliban.

  • Twenty years later, their mission remains the longest air raid the US military has ever made.

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Hours after the September 11 attack, US troops had already planned a response to the al-Qaeda mastermind and its host, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Policy makers and military planners discussed several policies of action. The CIA and Army Special Forces teams infiltrated from the north and south and worked with local anti-Taliban troops.

But I needed something more. So the White House and the Pentagon have decided to attack deep into the enemy’s territory with a bold special operation.

They turned to Joint Special Operations Command, especially the Army’s Elite Delta Force, for their mission. They will be the first ground boots in Afghanistan.

Objective gecko

Delta Force during Operation Gecko in Afghanistan

Delta Force operators boarded the MH-47 during Operation Gecko and flew to Operation Rhino. US Department of Defense

The objective gecko was a compound of the Taliban leader Mura Omar. The Group’s White House, the complex, was located near Kandahar, the birthplace and base of the Group.

Taking Muraomar out will send a powerful message about the reach of the US military. However, the target presented some logistical and planning issues.

In the first place, Gecko was more than 500 miles away from USS Kitty Hawk, an aircraft carrier that acts as a floating staging base for Delta Force.

This distance meant that the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the “Night Stalker,” had to fly over enemy terrain for at least five hours to reach its target. It is the longest air raid in US history and will be a valuable successor to the Doolittle and Son Tai raids.

In addition, there were no friendly bases nearby where assault troops could seek help in an emergency. Therefore, planners decided to capture an airfield a few miles away and name it Objective Rhino, if necessary, to support Delta. The assault troops were also ready to “alamo up” if conditions on the ground changed and prevented them from leaving.

The Delta Force squadron, reinforced by another squadron operator, boarded four MH-47 Chinooks. Support is provided by AC-130 gunships, fighters, transport, refueling, and aerial control aircraft.

Overall, more than 100 planes support operations on Gecko and Rhino.

Moment of unity

Army Ranger Regiment Rhino Afghanistan

A US Army ranger who jumps to the desired “Rhino”. U.S. Army

Just as the terrorist attacks united the American people, the U.S. forces, often struck by service rivalry, gathered to respond to the moment of crisis.

“Previously, I was on a Navy and Coast Guard ship / ship for joint training, exercises, and operations. Sometimes it’s easier for people to merge than others. The moment I get on that ship, the Navy’s The brothers and sisters didn’t get in the way, to make sure they knew where they were on the ship and to escort them if they got lost. Don’t hesitate, “a retired Delta Force operator told insiders. ..

“This was bigger than any of us, and we all knew it. No one lost the importance and importance of a small force preparing to do in retaliation.” Said the retired operator.

Ground troops loaded onto a helicopter, took off from Kitty Hawk on October 19, and flew low to detect and avoid enemy attacks.

The departure reflected the unification of operators’ goals in the face of uncertainties.

“I didn’t know what to expect. There was no established base, FOB. [forward operations bases] Delta’s retired operator added, “Other friendly forces in the area.” We were attacked and intended to hit them back with a clear message. “

Counterattack

Afghanistan Rhino Gecko Special Operations

The night route of the mission. Courtesy photo.

After hours of anti-aircraft fire and a lot of tanker refueling, the night stalker carrying ground troops arrived at the gecko.

One MH-47 collided with a composite wall, and in the sandstorm caused by the landing of the MTF, a disaster almost occurred and it was about to collide with another chopper.

“When the pilot understood that, he turned it off and took the flight path from the Kandahar city grounds,” said the retired operator.

A shooting occurred from the city, but the MH-47 went around and attempted another landing. “During that attempt, it affected the ridgeline, further damaging the helicopter and leaving some of the landing gear torn apart,” added the retired operator. The helicopter crashed but was able to take off later.

Upon reaching the goal, Delta operators flooded the compound, attacking designated areas, breaking through outer and internal obstacles and engaging enemies. For most of the hour, they searched for useful intelligence with Mullah Omar in the compound, but the Taliban leaders were long gone.

Before leaving the compound, Delta Force operators left behind the American flag and NYPD and FYPD stickers, leaflets, and patches to remind them of the long reach of the United States.

‘Clearly’

82nd Airborne Airborne Division boarding C-17 during evacuation of Afghanistan

The 82nd US Army Airborne Forces will board the US Air Force C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 30, 2021. U.S. Army / Master Army Alexander Burnett

The Pentagon and US intelligence knew from the beginning that taking out Taliban leaders was a disaster, but the mission was more than a high-value targeted assault. It was intended to be a message to America’s largest enemy-bearing group, and in that respect the raid was a success.

In addition, it increased the credibility of JSOC and Delta Force. Delta played an important role in Operation Eagle Claw, which failed in 1980 in an attempt to rescue an American hostage in Iran. The JSOC was created after its mission to centralize and improve US special operations capabilities.

The failure was still a pain for the troops and the military. However, Gecko showed that the sacrifice at Eagle Claw was not in vain. Their mission deep in Afghanistan-especially the close call with the MH-47-is Uncertainty When dangerous Their predecessors faced to show their determination in the United States.

A retired Delta operator said it was important to send the message “loudly and clearly” after the attack on September 11. “The other thing that wasn’t lost at that moment was that all the work, time, and sacrifice that created JSOC came together, starting with the lessons learned during Operation Eagle Claw.”

While the mission of US special operations forces only doubled as the war on terrorism progressed, action against Objective Gecko remains the longest air raid in US history, reflecting the scale of their challenges.

Twenty years later, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is widely seen as a failure represented by the recent chaotic withdrawal, but further reflection on the war is from the troops who fought the Taliban on the opening day. It can lead to full recognition.

The Pentagon has recently been upgraded Awards won by the U.S. military during the “Black Hawkdown” incidentIn a mission in Somalia in 1993, a small US military countered the difficult potential.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a veteran of the Greek Army (National Service of the 575th Navy Battalion and Army Headquarters), and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

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