In the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 2001, Mark Nutsch and Robert Pennington were Green Berets assigned to ODA 595. They were stepping off a helicopter to meet with members of the Northern Alliance who were fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida. About a month later, Scott Neil, a Green Beret with ODA 511, also arrived in Afghanistan.
The three were among the first wave of U.S. troops and CIA operatives sent into Afghanistan after the jihadi attacks of 9/11 to help topple the Taliban and dislodge al-Qaida, which plotted the attacks. Since then, more than 2,400 U.S. troops, including eight this year, have died in support of operations in Afghanistan, a fight that has also cost north of $1 trillion.
As they talked about old times during a commemoration at the Bad Monkey bar in Ybor City, Afghanistan remained in the news. Days earlier, an insider attack at the governor’s palace in Kandahar killed Afghan Brig. Gen. Abdul Raziq, the province’s powerful police chief and a key U.S. ally.