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1 Beaverton Military- Afghanistan

This title in other editions

Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda


Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda Cover

ISBN13: 9780425207871
ISBN10: 0425207870
Condition: Standard
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It was a raw, biting wind that swept down from the Hindu Kush in the first weeks of 2002, and the militiamen guarding the Ariana Hotel in downtown Kabul stamped their feet and blew on their hands to fight off the chill.

Behind them the hotel sat squat, yellow, and ugly. The Ariana was owned by the Afghan government, which in reality meant whichever guerrilla army happened to be in charge of Kabul at the time. It also meant the hotel had played several cameo roles in the decade of civil war that had wracked Afghanistan since the pro-Soviet government fell to the mujahideen in 1992. When the Taliban army of fundamentalist Muslim students routed the weak central government in 1996, their first order of business had been to drag Najibullah, the last pro-Soviet Afghan dictator, from the United Nations compound in which he and his brother had sheltered since their government fell in 1992. After torturing them, the Taliban death squad murdered the brothers and then hung their bodies from a makeshift scaffold in the traffic circle in front of the Ariana. Thereafter, the Taliban used the hotel as an R and R spot for troops rotating back from the front line in the war against the Northern Alliance forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud, and as a way station for Pakistani volunteers en route to the front. By way of payback, a Northern Alliance jet dropped a bomb on the hotel in 1997.

Now the tables had turned again. Al Qaida, the Islamist terrorist organization that had found a welcoming home in Afghanistan under the Taliban, had hijacked four planes in the United States and flown two of them into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon, killing thousands and stirring the world’s only superpower to action. The Americans had come to Afghanistan, embraced the Northern Alliance, and driven the Taliban from power. And so it was that the guards lounging by the large concrete steps that led up to the Ariana’s main entrance were tough-looking Northern Alliance fighters, hard men down from the Panjshir Valley whose fingers never wandered far from the triggers of their Kalashnikov assault rifles. Some of these men had been fighting—against the Soviets, Najibullah’s regime, other mujahideen militias, and the Taliban—for more than twenty years, and it showed on their dark, worn faces and dirty, calloused hands.

But the balance of power had not shifted completely in the Northern Alliance’s favor. Not yet. The big dog on the block was the United States, and so while the Panjshiri guards shivered outside in their motley camouflage uniforms provided by the Central Intelligence Agency, inside the Ariana’s bullet-scarred walls the Americans held court. The CIA had rented the entire hotel, retained the staff, and set up its Kabul station there. It made sense for the spooks to use the Ariana. It was centrally located, just a couple of blocks from the Presidential Palace, and the safe house being used by the Special Forces, but it was protected from the busy street by a ten-foot wall. The only other defenses the Americans had added were a string of concertina wire atop the wall and a sandbagged guard post on the flat roof, manned twenty-four hours a day by a couple of Northern Alliance fighters.

Easy living it wasn’t. The plumbing was atrocious, even by Afghan standards, and the hotel was in a general state of disrepair. But it was warm, and the dining room still offered simple but delicious dishes of beans and rice and other staples of Afghan cuisine.

On this frigid mid-January afternoon a handful of men were gathered in one of the hotel’s upstairs rooms for a meeting. The CIA personnel conducted most of their meetings in this room during those first turbulent months after the fall of Kabul, but on this occasion only one agency officer was present—a thin, bearded man with long sandy hair called John, who was the deputy chief of station. The rest of the men were soldiers, special operators from the units that had been at the forefront of the war in Afghanistan. Like John, they were dressed in civilian clothes and wore their hair longer than most American soldiers are allowed. All sported the beards that were ubiquitous among American special operators and intelligence operatives in Afghanistan. Most were armed with M4 carbines or 9mm Beretta pistols.

It was a dark-walled room made even darker by the curtains drawn to prevent any snipers from drawing a bead on those inside. Dust motes swam in a single shaft of intense sunlight that exploited a small gap between the curtains. A lamp resting on an end table cast shadows on a floor covered by an Afghan rug, and the men sat on a tatty, overstuffed sofa and similarly worn but comfortable chairs.

As the Americans sipped green tea from a service that a member of the hotel staff had set on a glass-topped coffee table, the mood was businesslike. The Taliban had been defeated, the Northern Alliance had swept into Kabul, and the whole country was—in theory—under the control of the Americans and the Afghan warlords with whom they had allied themselves. But the men in the room were not celebrating. The Taliban were gone and Al Qaida’s guerrillas were on the run, but there was still much to do. Six weeks earlier the Americans thought they had Al Qaida’s leaders holed up at Tora Bora in the White Mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Reluctant to put too many American troops on the ground, U.S. commanders had relied on their Afghan allies backed up by Special Forces to snare Osama bin Laden and his henchmen. But this time the Americans’ faith in their militia allies was misplaced, and a failure to block escape routes into Pakistan from Tora Bora meant bin Laden and hundreds of Al Qaida’s most hardened fighters had slipped the net.

So long as those guerrillas remained at large, the Americans knew they could not rest. And so as usual in these brainstorming sessions, which John convened daily in his excuse for a sitting room, the talk this afternoon was where to focus next.

As the meeting was breaking up, John looked across the table and spoke directly to one of the special operators—an Army officer dressed in a thick, long-sleeved shirt with an Afghan scarf around his neck. Clipped into the waistband of his cargo pants was a black leather holster in which nestled a semiautomatic Glock pistol with a twenty-round extended clip. Over six feet tall with dark hair and a goatee that framed an open and honest face, the officer was forty years old, yet still had the lean, hard physique of the track and field champion he had been in his youth. He exuded the self-confident air of a man used to not just living but succeeding on his wits. His name was Pete Blaber and he was a lieutenant colonel in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta, better known to the public as “Delta Force.”

The agency was getting a lot of reports that Al Qaida forces were regrouping in a mountainous region south of Gardez in eastern Afghanistan’s rugged Paktia province, John said. “What’s it called?” Blaber asked. The CIA officer told him. Blaber, who had been in Afghanistan for a month and thought he knew the lay of the land, had never heard of the place. “How do you spell it?” he said, eyes narrowing with curiosity as he grabbed a mechanical pencil to jot the name down in his day planner.

As Blaber scribbled, the CIA officer spoke each letter in turn: “S-H-A-H-I-K-H-O-T.”

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Mary Butler, July 7, 2007 (view all comments by Mary Butler)
If Naylor attributes "audacity, audacity, and audacity" to Patton, I'd say the rest of his information is suspect. "L'audace, l'audace, et toujours l'audace" was Napoleon's principle.
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(4 of 19 readers found this comment helpful)
amisha bachoo, July 7, 2007 (view all comments by amisha bachoo)
well the first story i ever read which had even a little to do with things like revolution was animal farm by George Orwell, followed by A Grain Of Wheat by NGUGI WA THIONG'O.....else i read short stories..reading the reviews by the other readers has aroused my interest in reading about wars.
because now even if we do not realise it many people have died to keep this world a safe place to live in.
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(5 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
megcampbell3, July 1, 2007 (view all comments by megcampbell3)
With a family member serving in Iraq, I decided it was time to read some war narratives (outside of Tim O?Brien on Vietnam, who, I think, is one of the best and most important storytellers of all time). Not a Good Day to Die was recommended to me as a starting point. While there were times I had a hard time following what was technically going on, since I?m not educated in military language, maneuvers, etc.; overall, I was surprised at what a fluid read this was. I was also impressed by the narrative, since it goes so far beyond news headlines and gives readers an understanding (in as far as possible) of what modern warfare is really like. This was indeed an excellent starting point for a whole world of information on war and on war in the Middle East.
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(6 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Naylor, Sean
Berkley Publishing Group
Military - United States
Asia - General
Military - Other
Operation Anaconda, 2002
Military - General
Military-General History
Edition Description:
Mass Market
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
9.03 x 6.05 x 1 in 1.01 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » Afghanistan
History and Social Science » Military » General History
History and Social Science » Military » Gulf Wars
History and Social Science » Military » Recent Military History
History and Social Science » Military » US Military » General

Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.50 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Berkley Publishing Group - English 9780425207871 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Naylor does an admirable job of exposing the many shortcomings that plagued this chapter of the Afghanistan war, although he does not sort the major from the minor failings or linger over the broader lessons. What the book lacks in analytical heft, however, it more than makes up in drama."
"Review" by , "Prize-winning Army Times reporter Naylor has written the best full-scale history of Operation Anaconda to date."
"Synopsis" by ,
Award-winning combat reporter Sean Naylor reveals how close American forces came to disaster in Afghanistan against Al Qaida—after easily defeating the ragtag Taliban that had sheltered the terrorist organization behind the 9/11 attacks.

At dawn on March 2, 2002, over two hundred soldiers of the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Divisions flew into the mouth of a buzz saw in Afghanistan's Shahikot Valley. Believing the war all but over, U.S. military leaders refused to commit the extra infantry, artillery, and attack helicopters required to fight the war's biggest battle— a missed opportunity to crush hundreds of Al Qaida's fighters and some of its most senior leaders.

Eyewitness Naylor vividly portrays the heroism of the young, untested soldiers, the fanaticism of their ferocious enemy, the mistakes that led to a hellish mountaintop firefight, and how thirteen American commandos embodied "Patton's three principles of war"—audacity, audacity, and audacity—by creeping unseen over frozen mountains into the heart of an enemy stronghold to prevent a U.S. military catastrophe.

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