At around 11:00 that night, four Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talons, turboprop special operations aircraft, were flying through a moonless sky from Pakistani into Afghan air space.
On board were 199 U.S. Army Rangers with orders to seize an airstrip. One hundred miles to the northeast, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters cruised through the darkness toward Kandahar, carrying Army Delta Force operators and yet more Rangers, heading for a second site.
It was Oct. 19, 2001. The war in Afghanistan had just begun and U.S. Special Operations Forces were the tip of the American spear.
Those Rangers parachuted into and then swarmed the airfield, engaging the enemy — a single armed fighter, as it turned out — and killing him. At that second site, the residence of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, the special operators apparently encountered no resistance at all, even though several Americans were wounded due to friendly fire and a helicopter crash.