MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the CIA did a favor for a single Afghan family

It's good to have friends in high places, especially when you can do almost nothing in return. One Afghan family found that out when they asked the CIA for help in rescuing their daughter from the Taliban, just as the U.S. was preparing to invade the country.


So it has nothing to do with the Soviet Union.

The first Americans inside of Afghanistan were teams of what has come to be known as "the Horse Soldiers," advanced units from the CIA's special activities division. They were US special operators and CIA officers that were helping coordinate multiple units of anti-Taliban Afghan resistance fighters. The Northern Alliance fighters combined with the direction of the CIA and the support of the U.S. military were able to overthrow the regime without the use of traditional ground forces in many areas.

They were so effective at fomenting resistance to the Taliban and persuading the locals to their cause, they were not only able to capture entire cities and provinces but were also able to transform the lives of individual families. One such family approached a CIA hideout one day, asking for a favor.

Where the first CIA officers in Afghanistan slept.

The smoke had barely cleared at Ground Zero in New York City before the United States sent CIA teams into Afghanistan to coordinate the resistance to the Taliban. But first, they needed the most up-to-date intelligence. The first Northern Alliance Liaison Team landed in Afghanistan on Sept. 26, 2001. They brought everything they needed to sustain them for however long their mission would take – including 40 pounds of potatoes. Sleeping in a traditional Afghan mud hut, they braved the winter as they gathered info for the coming revenge against al-Qaeda.

One day a young boy approached their shack and told them of the plight of his teenage sister. A local Taliban warlord forcefully took her as a bride, and she was no longer able to spend time with the family. Since this was long before politics would enter the relationship between US personnel and Afghan locals, the CIA officers gave the boy a tracking device and told him to give it to his sister, who should activate it when the warlord returns home.

Northern Alliance fighters in the Panjshir Valley, September 2001.

When she did, the team swooped in on the Taliban leader. They raided his compound, rescued this sister and returned her to her brother and her family. The senior Taliban leader was one of the first enemy targets of the coming Global War on Terror.