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Foxtrot In Kandahar

Author
Duane Evans
The author served in the Army for five years, including Special Forces and Intelligence, before joining the CIA where he served for twenty five years. He retired in 2007.

In September, 2001 he was in between postings and on leave in New York when the Twin Towers were destroyed. It was at this point that he experienced what can only be described as “an epiphany“ and took it upon himself to make a meaningful contribution to the CIA's response to this act of terrorism. That he was forty five, married and had two children made not a jot of difference; he believed that his former military experience, plus his field experience with the CIA, made him a valuable asset which should be deployed in his country's defence.

In trying to achieve his goal he describes the CIA's response in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and also the varied responses of some of its employees.

What many people forget or fail to realize is that the CIA, although a civilian organisation, is the foreign intelligence service of the United States and is the only agency authorised to carry out and oversee covert action on foreign soil. It must also be remembered that in 2001 there was no military involvement in Afghanistan, that would come later.

The strategy at this time was to have combined teams of CIA and Special Forces personnel, backed up by US airpower, working with friendly Afghan groups, such as the Northern Alliance, to destroy Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces. To become a member of one of these teams was Evans' goal. Following some false starts he was made leader of team Foxtrot and was duly infiltrated into southern Afghanistan to link up with Gul Aga Shirzai and his supporters.

Physically getting into the country involved many difficulties including lack of supplies, weaponry and communications equipment plus in-house challenges to his leadership. His “warts and all“ description is refreshingly honest and he does not spare himself from criticism.

Having made contact with Shirzai and established that he had some 500-700 fighters, Evans' full team was deployed. At Sharzai's suggestion their first action was to cut the main road running south from Kandahar to the Pakistani border, in so doing they would deny the enemy access to their main escape route into Pakistan.

Evans vividly describes the achievement of their first objective, capturing the tension, humour and intensity of operating in a very hostile environment where they were far outnumbered by enemy forces. Their success was such that they not only cut the main highway but were also able to advance northwards and reach the outskirts of Kandahar airfield which they then subjected to heavy air bombardment. Due to the intensity of these attacks, plus the negotations for the surrender of local Taliban forces being carried out by Hamid Karzai, many fighters fled or simply melted back into the local population from whence they came. This allowed Evans and his team to enter Kandahar unopposed and occupy the Governor’s Palace which Shirzai had previously been ejected from by the Taliban.

It would have been politically expedient for Hamid Karzai (America's preferred future Afghan leader) to have entered Kandahar first with his supporters and team Echo, but they were not close enough to do so. Evans was there to seize the initiative and duly did so.

The days following the occupation of the city were eventful. There was no direct action but important intelligence finds were made and a carefully planned bomb plot was foiled - mainly due to good luck. Teams Echo and Foxtrot ceased to exist as separate entities and Evans returned home. However, he did so with serious misgivings because as he says “the writing was already on the wall“. Plans for introducing large conventional forces were already being made, which in turn, would lead to the involvement of too many bureaucratic interests and far too many over-sized egos. He was right.

The two final chapters are perhaps the most telling. With his experience of Afghanistan in the early days of the fighting and his ongoing involvement until he retired, Evans is able to look at the wider picture and gives his own view of the success or failure of America's involvement.

A thoroughly readable personal account with some acute observations of the issues involved

4 out of 5
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