- Paperback: 408 pages
- Publisher: Presidio Press; Reprint edition (May 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 089141875X
- ISBN-13: 978-0891418757
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 118 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan Paperback – May 2, 2006
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Advance praise for First In
“A real-life ground-truth account of CIA human intelligence operations that were incredibly successful. The country owes Gary and his comrades, who almost single-handedly won the first phase of the war in Afghanistan. Told with the nitty-gritty detail by the leader who was there–real and compelling.”
–Bob Woodward, author of Bush at War and Plan of Attack
“First In adds yet another enthralling chapter to the endless martial history of Afghanistan. My old colleague Gary Schroen tells his forceful story with the sharpened senses that come only from years of living in the long shadows of the Khyber Pass. You can almost smell the cordite and the chapattis! A terrific yarn about a sad and storied land.”
–Milt Bearden, author of The Black Tulip and co-author of The Main Enemy
“I have read books by army officers who fought in wars past, but never one so true and thorough from a frontline intelligence officer, especially one involved in such an important episode in American history. This is really a grand achievement.”
–Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
While America held its breath in the days immediately following 9/11, a small but determined group of CIA agents covertly began to change history. This is the riveting first-person account of the treacherous top-secret mission inside Afghanistan to set the stage for the defeat of the Taliban and launch the war on terror.
Gary Schroen was hardly expecting to take on such a job. Like the veteran officer in countless cop movies, he was planning for retirement when disaster struck. After 9/11, at age fifty-nine, he was drafted back for his most dangerous assignment: to lead a handpicked team of operatives deep into Afghan territory and prepare the way for an American assault.
Comprised of seven agents, experts in fields ranging from communications to medicine to weaponry, the group called "Jawbreaker" found itself in hostile terrain while identifying targets for U.S. bombs and coordinating U.S. forces with the Northern Alliance (NA), the organized opposition to the Taliban dictatorship.
Jawbreaker struggled to maintain coherence within the NA, which had been deprived of its charismatic leader Ahmad Shah Masood when he was murdered on September 9 by an al-Qa'ida bomb concealed in a camera. The success of Schroen and his group would mean the collapse of the Taliban, the disruption of al-Qa'ida, and the end of Afghanistan as a sanctuary for terrorists. Impeding Jawbreaker's progress was the absence of a Taliban infrastructure that could be targeted, a Pakistani government eager to interfere, and a "rash and reckless" U.S. government, that did not know the most effective way to attack.
As thrilling as any novel, First In is a uniquely intimate look at a mission that began theU.S. retaliation against terrorism-and reclaimed the country of Afghanistan for its people.
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Like Gary Berntsen's book, Jawbreaker, Gary Schroen's book, First In, is an excellent reference for anyone interested in understanding conditions in Afghanistan, the many decades devoted to getting them to what they are today and America's efforts since 1978 that have left us with the current Afghan situation. In my view, Schroen's most valuable contributions are his chapter on History, and his Afterword that summarizes today's condition.
Sadly, In his History chapter, Schroen leaps from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, to conditions of Soviet defeat in 1988. One is left without any references to the bloody years in between, when the Afghan defenders suffered tremendous losses and would ultimately have been defeated without the efforts of U. S. Congressman, Charlie Wilson. Indeed, Charlie Wilson's name and influence do not appear anywhere in Schroen's History chapter ... or anyplace else.
While Schroen makes relevant conclusions regarding the failure of the CIA's primary mission in Afghanistan after 9/11/2001, and places much of the blame on a change of America's focus on creating a war in Iraq, I feel he treads too lightly on this topic. Schroen's book carries a 2005 copyright, which means he had plenty of time to develop stronger words of condemnation of the Bush policy of self-serving, Iraq intervention and allowing that misadventure to cloud our focus on just where our primary enemies are.
Lastly, while Schroen's book benefits from slightly better editing and proofreading that Berntsen's book, it remains too rich in dialog for a historical treatise.
First let me say this book brought back a lot of memories of those days after the attack. It’s interesting many years late to review how we felt, how our leaders thought, and still feel the sting of the attack on our nation. Two hundred years from now people will still be reviewing the historical record. It is for this reason I am most pleased to have read this book.
The author was unique in the sense that he had experience in the region prior to the events that brought him there post-9-11. Because of his contacts and his knowledge of language and culture he was ideal to bring an alliance of tribes inline in order to destroy the enemy. This book deals prodomently with that event.
There is no lack of action. But the book does deal with the important issues of rapidly bringing the war to Al Qaeda. This war developed rapidly and the quality of management needed to ensure its success is quite remarkable.
Ultimately this book merges with another book Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander by Gary Berntsen who takes what was built by Gary Schroen. There’s more physical action in this book . But none-the-less the books provide an inside view of those dark days.
Over all this is a very interesting book about the war in Afghanistan. If you enjoyed this then I would strongly suggest Hank Crumpton’s book The Art of Intelligence: lessons from a Life in the CIA’s clandestine service as they both deal with direct intervention in Afghanistan. I would also recommend Hard Measures by Jose A Rodriguez as a primer for what happens when you have key assets with information derived from the battle field.
All four of the books create an historical record of the CIA’s activities. Well…at least what they will release to the public. There is always a “rest of the story” some place waiting to be read.
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.