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First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan Hardcover – May 10, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press; First Edition edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891418725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891418726
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Just days from retirement, Schroen, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, was tapped to lead the effort to establish contact with the Northern Alliance in the days following 9/11; the 35-year CIA veteran commanded the first American team on the ground in Afghanistan. At the proverbial tip of the spear, the team slipped into the country and made contact with the Northern Alliance (a loose confederation of Afghan warlords that had been fighting the Taliban government and their al-Qaeda allies), secured their cooperation and set the stage for the deployment of Special Forces teams into Afghanistan. Schroen tells the story crisply and with intimate detail, taking readers on a journey that lurches from harrowing through exhilarating to frustrating—particularly in the realm of communications. "Sitting in the Panjshir Valley," the author glumly concludes, "I seemed to be shouting down a deep, dark hole" at brass thousands of miles away. Events eventually outran the policymakers, however, when a Northern Alliance general finally lost his patience and announced to his CIA contact, "I am going into Kabul regardless of what your NSC decides." Schroen delivers what he advertises: a powerful account that takes the reader inside war councils and 19th-century– style cavalry charges in the months just after 9/11. (May 31)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Schroen had recently retired from 35 years of service with the CIA when the U.S. was attacked by terrorists on 9/11. With experience operating in Afghanistan, he was tapped to lead a team to link with the Northern Alliance to prepare for a military operation against the Taliban. Two days before the attack on the U.S., Northern Alliance leaders had been killed, supposedly on the orders of Osama bin Ladin. On September 19, the CIA team, with six members and $3 million, deployed to Afghanistan on a harrowing mission that included the order to kill bin Ladin. Schroen offers a first-person account of the intricacies of American politics and military operations in an atmosphere charged with the war on terror. He also incorporates historical background of U.S and Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and how the nation came to be in play in the war on terrorism. In an afterword, Schroen looks back on the mission--its successes and failures--from the perspective of the recent elections in Afghanistan and acknowledges the continued challenges in the region. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

This is a great book and is certainly worth reading.
C. Sells
Schroen was the best candidate to lead a team into that country and he was in the process pre-9/11 of retiring from the CIA at the ripe age of 59!
Michael Heath
Mr. Schroen draws you into the story with his ability to convey the story with details that provide color and the feel of being there.
Stratiotes Doxha Theon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
EDIT of 20 Dec 07 to add links.

This is a superb first-person account. I have absolute and total respect for this officer, his team, his courage, and what he accomplished within weeks of 9-11, setting the stage for a new form of warfare in which CIA opened the door, Special Forces turned on the lights, and conventional Air Force leveled the place.

The book provides some extremely useful insights from the field with respect to Washington's failure to understand local politics and ground truth despite frequent detailed field appraisals from the Chief of Station, and the book makes it clear that Pakistan lobbied Washington strategically and ably to "sell" its plan for taking over Afghanistan with its own allies, against both Russian and US (and for that matter, Chinese) best interests.

There are five substantive military insights in this book:

1) Despite their enormous personal courage and high level of training, the US military special forces are handicapped by a joint defense-level policy that will not do deep bombing unless a Search & Rescue (SAR) capability is readily available. I recall the original Office of Strategic Services dropping people behind enemy lines (the pilots understood they might be shot down as part of the deal) and I just think to myself, shame on DoD, this force protection zero tolerance for casualties has gone too far. We need a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs with the balls to change the military culture back to one that is mission oriented rather than casualty averse.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on September 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gary Schroen informs the reader upfront in an author's note that an officer of the CIA Publication Review Board characterized this book as "the most detailed account of CIA field operations as told by an officer directly involved" ever to be cleared for open publication. Indeed it is the details of how CIA went about establishing an initial seven man team (codenamed `Jawbreaker') and how that team deployed and operated in Afghanistan that makes this book so fascinating. It throws a spotlight on what has always been one of CIA's murkier corners.

Jawbreaker was established with admirable speed by CIA following the tragedy of 9/11 with a specific goal of going to Afghanistan and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. As the book's title implies Jawbreaker was the first American force deployed to Afghanistan. The story of the organization, deployment and support of Jawbreaker reveals, inadvertently I think, what is right and what is wrong about CIA. Sadly it also reveals serious flaws within the U.S. military command and control system(s) that have seriously hampered the War on Terrorism. Be warned however, this book is not a sensation seeking expose, it is a sober account of how seven brave and resourceful CIA officers did their best to respond to the somewhat confused and contradictory orders generated by often ill-informed and mostly irresolute intelligence officials and policy makers in Washington.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By john on April 29, 2006
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This is a four-star account of a five-star operation. Schroen perpetuates a few errors, but (as an earlier reviewer on this site noted)in most instances it would take a committed Afghanophile to spot them. He largely dispels the miasma of Pakistan-fostered, western-perpetuated slander that has besmirched the reputation of the anti-Taliban resistance, the so-called Northern Alliance. He makes it clear the alliance, even after the 9/9/01 assassination of their charismatic leader Ahmad Shah Masood, were a responsibly and effectively led grassroots movement, heroic in their resistance to tyranny.

With mingled wonder and dismay, he describes how the 'anti-Tajik' (ie anti-Northern Alliance) lobby in Washington held up the overthrow of the Taliban for weeks longer than necessary, by bombing marginal 'infrastructure' instead of frontline troop concentrations opposite alliance positions north of Kabul. And he doesn't hide his anger over his realization that his superiors in DC weren't even reading the painstaking firsthand analyses he forwarded almost nightly.

Schroen minces no words exposing Pakistan's agenda. Islamabad saw the covert 1980s CIA arms pipeline to the anticommunist rebels as a means to place Afghanistan under the control of "a Pashtun-centered, fundamentalist religious party that will be malleable to manipulation by Pakistan ..." In the mid-1990s, "[t]he Pakistanis quickly came to see the Taliban as a possible answer to achieving their strategic political vision for Afghanistan, and shifted their full support accordingly."

He describes in fascinating detail the CIA's liaison with former communist militia commander Abdul Rasheed Dostum, a sometime Northern Alliance hanger-on.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Todd Bradley on September 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unlike many reviewers, I wasn't expecting some spy thriller or a military action novel. But I did expect for such an important book to have received more attention in editing. As you can tell from the description and other reviews, the book is a very frank account of the CIA's initial foray into Afghanistan after 9/11. The author has first hand experience, as he led the effort. But he's not a great writer. He repeats himself so much that I got the feeling he wrote the chapters at long intervals, and never went back to re-read what he'd done. A good editor would have smoothed out the flow and eliminated the retelling of the same facts over and over. And a good proofreader would have caught the typos, which were numerous enough as to be distracting (Schroen spells GPS as GSP a few times, which left me wondering "OK, he told us about the GPS team in the last chapter, but what's the GSP team? Is that the same guys, or is he talking about something else?"). I suspect the publisher was rushed to get the book to market. That said, it was an interesting story, which gave me insight into the strange military and political history of Afghanistan.
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