Customer Reviews: Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man
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VINE VOICEon October 7, 2008
I thought we'd learned some expensive lessons in Vietnam. Apparently I'm wrong, and the proof of that is the book Kill bin laden (lower case intentional) by Dalton Fury (not the real name) and Col. David Hunt. In Vietnam there was constant interference by Washington in the conducting of operations in the field. I thought we'd learned to turn command of combat operations over to field commanders, define, in advance, the rules of engagement and then step out of the way and let them go. I also thought we'd learned that international borders couldn't always be respected, especially when those borders provide aid and comfort to foreign fighters. This is especially true when the host government knows they are providing cover for these fighters and takes no steps, or weak ones at best, to put an end to that cover. Boy, was I wrong. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

Fury was the leader of an elite Delta Force unit inserted into Afghanistan with the sole mission of finding bin laden and then killing him. Not an easy mission but certainly clear enough. No ambiguity here. As Dalton and Hunt point out, not only was there interference from up the chain of command in disallowing mission options, but the Delta Force was paired with Afghan fighters that were very thin in their commitment of finding bin laden. It is a paradox that the mission seemed doomed almost from the start and yet came very close to succeeding. Dalton maintains that they may have come within a few meters of actually killing b. l. The cave the team thought b. l. was in was targeted and successfully bombed. Later, teams searched the area for b.l. body parts but none was ever found. After reading Kill bin laden, one has to wonder whether our leaders really wanted b. l. found and dispensed with.

Kill bin laden is well written. Why shouldn't it be? The man who wrote it was there.

As a veteran, I've never doubted that the U. S. military is the finest in the world. There's not another soldier in the world that can stand toe to toe with the American fighting man. Our combined forces are simply the best. However, it seems clear that even after the hard lessons learned in the past, we seem doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Will we ever learn?

Dalton and Hunt deliver a masterfully written inside story about the failed attempt to get b. l. Kill bin laden is not a partisan read but it is one that should make you angry.

I highly recommend.

Semper Fi
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This book has been very heavily over-sold by the publisher and will disappoint those who are expecting something other than a professional account of a professional mission with all its warts.

This is a very fine first person account with ample detail that I for one found very rewarding and worthy of both my time and money (the book is very reasonably priced). The reader will benefit from first reading the reviews of the books I list at the end--one would never know from this account that Rumsfeld gave the Pakistani's an air corridor to evacuate 3000 Taliban overnight from Tora Bora, that the Navy was certain they killed Bin Laden, or that General Franks refused to put a battalion of Rangers on the back door (the author does tell us of his understanding that President Bush personally ruled that the back door belonged to the "trusted" Pakistanis).

The author tries hard to be nice to intelligence, but his true bottom line is captured in his description of what they had for him:

1) It's winter in Afghanistan
2) Bin Laden can ride a horse

We all know they had more than that--even with a US Senator blowing the fact that we were listening to Bin Laden's cell phones and satellite phones--but the reality is that CIA could meet with the warlords but did not have actual people within the tribes and on the ground as the Pakistani ISI did.

The author also makes clear that it was just as hard to figure out the friendly situation as it was the enemy situation. From where I sit, "total battlefield awareness" is a pipe dream--a fraud--and it's time we started refocusing on humans that can live up to the Gunny Poole "Tiger's Way."

Here I my notes, ending with my conclusions and ten books I recommend in partnership with this one.

Early on the role of snipers, and the possible uses of snipers if we could get bureaucrats and politicians out of the way, impress me.

Small teams with a forward air controller that can go deep and stay for days impress me, very much. Unfortunately, we don't field them often enough (I only have read of use in Colombia, not generally, but SOF operates in over 150 countries so who knows).

Author reinforces the concept of Irregular Warfare as bottom-up thinking in which every person has a say, but takes pains to distinguish this from leadership, with the self-effacing comment that the leaders will decide after the enlisted personnel tell the leaders what they need to know.

Early on he laments to misplacing of the Special Operations "truths," the first one being "Humans are more important than hardware." Today privates are being selected for special operations right out of boot camp, and between private military contractors being allowed to loot the public treasury of both money and skilled manpower, and the complete dismissal of all standards, one can sense the author's thoughts between the lines: DELTA is the last vestige of "true" special forces (although I would include SEALs and some special air).

Air Force air strikes were not great--1 out of 3 hit the target, and the so-called super bomb, the BLU-82, did not explode as advertised.

Bin Laden's "order of battle" was surmised to be an inner circle of Saudis, Yemenis, and Egyptians, with an outer circle of Afghans, Algerians, Jordanians, Chechnyans, and Pakistanis.

Taliban liked to wear black on black...I could not help being reminded of the Viet-Cong.

Terrain blocked our radios. General Clark and others have made it clear that we are not trained, EQUIPPED, or organized for mountain operations, and between this point, and the personal knowledge I have of how few special Chinooks we have that can operate above 12,000 feet--and only because their CWO pilots have learned to fart into the fuel--it's clear the US is not serious about mountain or jungle warfare, and marginally competent as urban warfare.

After seven days they were out of batteries and water.

There was a "surrender" gambit when they got close, the primary purpose being to keep an Afghan warlord between Bin Laden and the Americans.

We still have total disconnect between ground troop use of grids on a map, and Air Force demand for latitude and longitude. The $150 GPS conversion is great, Navy and Air Force still not joint.

Lovely account of how they did a field hire of a seeming gift from heaven, a second translator who spoke English, only to learn later he also spoke Arabic and had been sent as a penetration. Sidebar on Pakistani penetration of the Afghan group they were with.

No mules. Very very tough to resupply in the mountains in winter. Even without loads, four kilometers on one occasion took five hours.

Bin Laden evidently wrote his will on the 14th of December, coincident with his rather desperate sounding call over the radio to all to arm their women and children.

We dropped 1100 "precision" bombs and $550 "dumb" bombs on Tora Bora, plus tens of thousands of rounds of other artillery and ammunition. I am so reminded of Viet-Nam, where what we paid for artillery shells being fired could have bought every Vietnamese a two-story cinderblock house with electricity and running water.

Author concludes that the CIA model of buying warlords DOES NOT WORK for specific objectives.

I learn for the first time that a visit was made to Tora Bora after the fact, a forensic visit. [He know from Bin Laden's later emergence that he did get out.]

The author is scathingly critical of the Army Center for Army Lessons Learned, which has exactly one hit on Tora Bora against thousands of documents visible via the web.

What I learned from this:

DELTA is over-trained and under-utilized.
Conventional Army leaders have no idea how to use special forces in advance of operations or deep behind enemy lines--they simply do not have the mind-set.
CIA paramilitary and some clandestine needs to be transferred into a new Active Measures Command that is the dark and dirty side of Irregular Warfare.

Fine book! See also:
First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan
Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander
Delta Force: The Army's Elite Counterterrorist Unit
About Face: Odyssey of an American Warrior
Tactics of the Crescent Moon: Militant Muslim Combat Methods
None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam
Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars
The Tunnels of Cu Chi
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
War Without Windows: A True Accout of a a Young Army Officer Trapped in an Intelligence Cover-Up in Vietnam.

See Also the Comments

Robert David Steele
ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World
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on October 27, 2008
The author of this book was interviewed on 60 Minutes, providing his viewpoint of what happened in Tora Bora through Delta Force's multiple missions. "Kill Bin Laden" is an easy read and keeps your attention throughout the book.
A few observations:
1. The Afghans have this reputation of being such tough fighters through their battles with the Soviet Union during the 80's. Yet, when the local Afghan militia's are assigned as "guides" to DF, they fired their weapons aimlessly and only fought in battles from dusk to dawn(they go home at night giving up any ground won during the day).
2. The Afghan warlords became multi-millionaires with all the money the CIA threw at them , but their loyalties were never reliable because they could also have been bought out by Al Qaida(one of the theories for Bin Laden's escape). Relying on these individuals really provided a low chance of success. Even with these knuckleheads, the Detla still took names and kicked.......
There were a few negative's in the book. One, without fault of the author, is the lack of detail of Delta Force training. Because it is such a secretive unit, no details can be given as to the type training that they receive(That would be an interesting read). Second, the author gives several theories as to how Bin Laden escaped rather than having solid intelligence. Maybe I was naive, but in buying the book I figured he would have had a more certain idea as to what happened to Bin Laden. On this issue, the author seems to fault himself for not getting Osama, and he was very close(radio chatter). But they never really had solid facts as to whether they were actually that close
The author references Gary Schroen's version of Tora Bora, a great read called "First In" giving the CIA account. This book was much better than "Lone Survivor" and avoided any political bantering. Overall, a good read and would definately recommend
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This is one of the best books about Delta Force that I have read. Although the book covers a short period of the unit's history during the first months of the Afghanistan Incursion (Operation Enduring Freedom), the book gives the reader a true insight into what kind of Special Operations soldiers serve in Delta Force. The author using a pseudo-name was a Delta Force Squadron Commander during the Tora Bora campaign to get Usama bin Laden by any means. I believe this book and this book only gives the most accurate account of what took place in Tora Bora in December of 2001 and under what conditions they had to work under. The author gives credit to the enlisted Delta Operators, Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controllers, Special Forces "Green Berets," and the British Special Boat Service (SBS).

The only technical fault I found was when the author describing the 15,000-pound bomb, which are officially called BLU-82B/C by the Air Force as a "Daisy Cutter." These 15,000-pound bombs were nicknamed “Cheeseburger” or “Big Blue 82” during their first use in Vietnam. The "Daisy Cutter" was a 10,000-pound, M121 bomb. This mis-description may be due to a lack ordnance knowledge from earlier wars. The first "Daisy Cutter" bomb was dropped in Vietnam in the fall of 1968 and by early 1970 the bombs were all used up. The 15,000-pound “Cheeseburger” was first used in Vietnam on 23 March 1970. Twenty "Cheeseburger" bombs were used during the Cambodia Incursion, May and June of 1970. A “Cheeseburger” bomb was used in 1975 during the Mayaguez, Cambodia rescue. Eleven "Cheeseburgers" were used during Desert Storm, the first bombs dropped were on 7 February 1991. The last four "Cheeseburger" bombs in the national stockpile were used in Afghanistan to drive out al Queda forces hiding in caves in the Tora Bora area on 13 December 2001. It is not surprising that the bombs did not appear to have great effect in the confines of a ravine riddled valley as it is a demolition/blast bomb with it pressure wave being directed by the terrain.

The reviewer, Mike R. Vining, is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major who served in the army from 1968 to 1999 in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), 1st Special Force Operation Detachment - Delta (Airborne), and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
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This book was probably mis-titled. Though American efforts to track, capture or kill Osama follow a close background parallel throughout the text, the most important elements in this book deal with a closeup look at the most modern, powerful and deadly fighting force in military history. That would be our "Delta Forces" with whom the author served at the highest levels. If you are interested in how our most clandestine military fighting agency trains, lives and operationally serves .... this book would be a good place to start.
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on December 4, 2012
This is one of the first books I read about the war on terror in Afghanistan and it was a wonderful read. Told by a Delta commander who was there when it happened, I couldn't lay it down. It tells of the frustrating dealings with the Afghanis, many whom were sympathetic to Bin Laden, and eventually refused to do anything, allowing Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora across the border into Pakistan. A great read!
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on January 29, 2016
Now that UBL is no more and with 20/20 hindsight, we know the fake 2 day truce forced on Delta by a corrupt warlord was the chance for UBL to exit to Pakistan. The reviewers that think the "Rogue Warrior" series is a better read should learn the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Readers have to remember that books like this have to be checked by DoD, so a lot of operational details were likely omitted.

Fury ( a pseudonym) wrote the book to straighten out all the misinformation. As for Fury's criticism of the higher-ups, they have to think about global issues such as relations with Pakistan, a nuclear power. The Pentagon's decision to use indigenous warlords was the mistake, not Delta operations. It is clear, that left unhindered, Delta would have been successful.
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on March 20, 2014
This book gives great insight into the early hunt for Bin Laden and meticulously outlines some of the hardships (political and otherwise) these men faced as they targeted the world's most wanted man. There is little question that, given more latitude to conduct the operation autonomously, these men would have succeeded in their mission...
This book is essential in learning about and understanding the War on Terror. I highly recommend it!
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on August 29, 2014
A great read that clearly relates to the ambiguity and challenges of unconventional warfare in an environment where US objectives are overlaid by an odd fabric of tribal, religious, greedy and political motivations, which is Afghanistan.
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on October 2, 2012
Well, maybe not howling, but you get the idea. Let me start off by saying that I read Dalton Fury's "Kill Bin Laden" as a prologue of sorts to "No Easy Day," the story about the successful operation that killed the terrorist mastermind. I've since decided that I'm in no rush to read the story by the former SEAL Team 6 member, because "Kill Bin Laden" left me oddly satisfied with his "in-hiding" status (a satisfaction that I'm sure is not shared by Mr. Fury or the other Delta operators on the ground with him in the early days of the war in Afghanistan).

Fury's account of his hunt for the then-most wanted man in the world is loaded with information, spectacle and bittersweet "what-ifs." His unique position as the commander of the Delta Force operators leading the way in the Battle of Tora Bora gives him incredible insight into the nuances of the operation and definitive authority on its proceedings. It's a "no frills" sort of story and Fury endeavors to give much of the credit to his men. Indeed, he spends much more time detailing their adventures than his own and extols their virtues throughout the tale. It's obvious he has a huge amount of respect and admiration for the men under his command who accomplished so much under such insane conditions.

I do have a few quibbles about the book. I felt like I never had a clear picture in my mind of the other operators, and perhaps this was by design, but I forgot several times who was who and doing what. Some of them stood out very well, but some others faded into the background. The way Fury writes dialogue also comes off a little stiff, too grammatically correct perhaps, but I sometimes had trouble imagining people saying it that way. Lastly, and this is a common problem of most nonfiction, the end of the story seems to come out of nowhere. By this, I mean it doesn't feel like the soldiers are anywhere close to finished and then - BAM - it's over. Obviously, this is how it happened and I'm not saying he should have lied to make it more dramatic, this is simply an observation of how I felt reading it. Still, these are minor criticisms that in no way diminished my enjoyment of "Kill Bin Laden."

So why did it leave me satisfied? Simple. The Delta boys put such a hurting on Bin Laden that he was forced to live in hiding for nearly another decade before ST6 caught up with him. They showed him as the coward he was, tore down what was thought to be an impregnable fortress and did it under the most austere conditions imaginable. This was Bin Laden's end - the end of his power, capabilities and status. Maybe they didn't kill or capture him, but Fury and his commandos did one heck of a job, hamstrung by the higher-ups and all.

As I understand it, Dalton Fury received Persona Non Grata status in Delta Force for publishing this book without receiving clearance. In his intro and other writings he's published (regarding "No Easy Day" author Mark Owen) it seems he's okay with this. He felt the story needed to be told and I agree. It's important that the American public understand not only what happens during wartime, but why and how (to a degree; OPSEC and all that). If I could, I would personally thank Mr. Dalton Fury for his service and his willingness to share one small part of it; and I'd buy him a beer (or five). After reading this, it's obvious he deserves it.
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