The Most Amazing Special Forces Fighters You've Never Heard Of
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists horrifically attacked the United States, killing 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000, and causing $10 billion in infrastructure damage. President George W. Bush in addressing the nation stated how "these acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." This was no more evident than when U.S. Special Forces teams were deployed as a first response to what happened on 9/11. A recent movie, 12 Strong, based on the book by Doug Stanton, Horse Soldiers, documents those soldiers' stories.
A former Green Beret, Scott Neil was part of a specialized direct action unit assigned to infiltrate Afghanistan. He was one of the select few, from the U.S. Army's 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), to put America's first "boots on THE ground" in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Neil told American Thinker, "We have always been the silent warriors, deploying around the world. In this case, we felt vengefulness, pride, and wanted justice. Our mission was to kill or capture al-Qaeda and Taliban senior leadership. There was a military-centric focus, which unfortunately has now morphed to provide stability to the Afghan government and infrastructure. Back then we tried not to appear as American soldiers and used transportation similar to what the tribes used. Today, the infiltration is a twelve-vehicle convoy that wear uniforms alien to the environment. When we first went in, we used a low-visibility footprint, integrating with the population, with the Afghans as the primary force. We were there to train, advise, and assist."
This small band of Green Berets was the strategy chosen by Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, instead of a large conventional force. Stanton wanted to show through the movie and book how "the Special Forces are skilled in language and will use the cultural and religious aspects of that community to their advantage. They are able to react quickly to a changing environment that has a lot of variables." Neil concurs: "We brought together these warring tribal factions to support our objective, and used surprise, speed, and energy."
Using the model of blending in with the insurgency, they fought alongside those fighting the Taliban. There, tribes, whom Stanton calls "the resistance fighters, were known as the Northern Alliance. I think Afghanistan is really a state and not a nation, with many autonomous regions that are divided up along ethnic lines. Within months, the Green Berets, along with the tribes and air support, were able to destroy the Taliban and chase bin Laden into Pakistan. Part of the reason for their success was using unconventional warfare and direct action. They were covert, grew beards to blend in with the force they are fighting alongside."
These special warriors were not subjected to the disastrous rules of engagement of the Obama days. Instead, they were given the authority to make unconventional decisions. Stanton wrote how "the captain was able to make pretty big decisions on the part of the U.S. along with his counterpart, the Afghan general, who actually participated in the battle instead of sitting on the sidelines. One decision made was to ride alongside their Afghan counterparts on horses. These horse soldiers combined cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to defeat the enemy."
Neil explained, "Those that did ride had no cavalry training. The only one who knew how to ride a horse was the captain, who had a rodeo scholarship at the University of Kansas. The others learned on the spot, as they ate what the Afghans ate, fought as they fought, and used the horses as a form of transportation as they did. All of us who went into Afghanistan during the early days, the 'horsemen' and those of us who did not ride horses, were a very small, highly trained, and highly skilled group that was given a very broad mission with limited technologies."
Both the movie and book chronicle how dangerous it was for the American forces, considering they did not always know who the bad guys were and who the good guys were. A quote from Horse Soldiers hammers the point home: "[t]he teams were now surrounded by the very soldiers whom minutes earlier, they had been planning to kill."
Both book and movie account for how the Taliban is pure evil. Taliban fighters forced youngsters to fight for them by threatening to kill their families. General Abdul Rashid Dostum, from the Afghan Northern Alliance, refused "to live in a country where a man can't drink vodka and where women can't wear skirts or go to school. The Taliban had marched into the city of Mazar, laid waste, killing an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people."
Unfortunately, these silent warriors never get the recognition they so rightly deserve. Stanton captured this problem with a scene in the book, where one of the Special Forces soldiers, Ben Milo, is dropped off late at night in the middle of a U.S. park and has to call his wife to pick him up. He wants Americans to understand that these silent Special Forces "never received a bona fide public homecoming celebration like the kind the guys in the regular Army got. There are no parades for these quiet professionals."
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.