The US response to the terror attacks on 9/11 was swift. On 20 September 2001, Paramilitary officers of the CIA Special Activity Division were inserted into Afghanistan to link up with the Northern Alliance. Two weeks later, Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 555 and 595 were airlifted into Afghanistan from Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan. The Special Forces soldiers joined with CIA operatives to form Task Force Dagger. On 7 October 2001, they unleashed hell, and Operation Enduring Freedom began.
Airstrikes targeted Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad. The Northern Alliance launched a massive offensive against Taliban/al-Qaeda defenses from their territory in the northeastern part of Afghanistan. Task Force Dagger targeted key Taliban defensive positions for Allied airstrikes as they swept through the northern territories. The US did not spare any efforts in crushing the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Cruise missiles from American warships were launched from the Persian Gulf, and American bombers unleashed a torrent of munitions from airfields outside of Afghanistan. Within a few short weeks after initiating operations against the Taliban, US and Northern Alliance troops were driving on the Afghan capital of Kabul.
On 9 November, the US/Northern Alliance coalition moved on Mazar-e-Sharif. The Taliban had moved 4,000 fighters into the city to repel the assault, but American airpower decimated their positions. The US/Northern Alliance force overwhelmed the Taliban defenders. Coupled with continued airstrikes on Taliban positions outside of the city, the battle was a swift and decisive victory for the coalition. Five days following the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, the coalition moved on Kabul. Like the victory at Mazar-e-Sharif, the assault on Kabul was initiated with a concentrated aerial bombardment. The Northern Alliance had assembled a huge force of 98,000 troops for the assault. Outnumbered and overwhelmed with American airpower, the Taliban abandoned the city and fled to the mountains in eastern Afghanistan.
Throughout the offensive, American casualties had been light. The first American casualty, as a result of combat action occurred on 25 November. The US/Northern Alliance had used a medieval fortress Qala-I-Janghi for a prison holding Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners of war. A bloody uprising by 600 POW’s led to the death of CIA operative Johnny “Mike” Spann. American special operation operatives moved on the compound, calling in precision-guided munitions and AC-130 gunship fire to quell the uprising. The response was devastating, with only 86 POW’s surviving the onslaught. The Battle of Qala-I-Janghi was the final military engagement in northern Afghanistan during the invasion.
Look for more information regarding the invasion of Afghanistan and the Battle of Qala-I-Janghi in the future Modern War issue #22 with the article “The Qala-I-Janghi Uprising” and join the conversation on Facebook!