Foxtrot in Kandahar: A Memoir of a CIA Officer in Afghanistan at the Inception of America's Longest War

Foxtrot in Kandahar: A Memoir of a CIA Officer in Afghanistan at the Inception of America's Longest War

by Duane Evans


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Kandahar. The ancient desert crossroads and, as of fall of 2001, ground zero for the Taliban and al-Qa’ida in southern Afghanistan. In the northern part of the country, the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance (the Afghan organization opposed to the Taliban regime) has made progress on the battlefield, but in the south, the country is still under the Taliban’s bloody hold and al-Qa’ida continues to operate there. With no “Southern Alliance” for the US to support, a new strategy is needed if victory is to be achieved. Veteran CIA officer Duane Evans is dispatched to Pakistan to “get something going in the South.” Foxtrot in Kandahar is his story.

Evans’s unexpected journey from the pristine halls of Langley to the badlands of southern Afghanistan began within hours after watching the horrors of 9/11 unfold during a chance visit to FBI Headquarters. It was then he decided to begin a personal and relentless quest to become part of the US response against al-Qa’ida. Evans’s gripping memoir tracks his efforts to join one of CIA’s elite teams bound for Afghanistan, a journey that eventually takes him to the front lines in Pakistan, first as part of the advanced element of CIA’s Echo team supporting Hamid Karzai, and finally as leader of the under-resourced and often overlooked Foxtrot team.

Relying on rusty military skills from his days as a Green Beret, and brandishing a traded-for rifle, Evans moves toward Kandahar in the company of Pashtun warriors—one of only a handful of Americans pushing forward across the desert into some of the most dangerous, yet mesmerizingly beautiful, landscape on earth. The ultimate triumph of the CIA and Special Forces teams, when absolutely everything was on the line, is tempered by the US tragedy that catalyzed what is now America’s longest war. Evans concludes his memoir with an analysis of opportunities lost in the years since his time in Afghanistan.

Brilliantly crafted and fast-paced, Foxtrot in Kandahar: A Memoir of a CIA Officer in Afghanistan at the Inception of America’s Longest War fills a major gap in the literature of the war’s critical and complex early months. It is required reading for anyone interested in modern warfare, complicated tribal politics, and the ancient land where they intersect.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611213577
Publisher: Savas Beatie
Publication date: 08/08/2017
Sales rank: 1,033,010
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Duane Evans is a former CIA officer with field tours on four continents to include serving as Chief of Station, CIA’s most senior field position. He is the recipient of the Intelligence Star for valor and the Career Intelligence Medal. Prior to joining the Agency he was a U.S. Army Special Forces and Military Intelligence officer. A graduate of New Mexico State University, he is also the author of the acclaimed espionage novel North from Calcutta.

Read an Excerpt



At a sidewalk table in Washington, DC, across the street from FBI Headquarters, I sipped a cappuccino and soaked in the perfect September weather. It had been only a month since I had completed a tour as a CIA Chief of Station in South America, and I was still adjusting to life back in the States. Beautiful mornings like this certainly helped. I checked my watch and glanced at the side entrance to the FBI building where I would soon meet with Special Agent Frank Ortiz and the Latin American delegation he was escorting.

I was looking forward to seeing Frank again. He had been an integral part of my station, and we had worked together closely on international terrorism issues. An important part of that work included educating host government officials on the terrorist threat, hence the delegation's visit to receive FBI and CIA briefings in Washington. Frank, who was still serving at the station, had organized the trip.

Although I was still on leave status, I was happy to accept Frank's invitation to join him and the delegation. I was slated to begin working at the FBI in a couple months as a CIA liaison officer, so this would give me a sneak preview of the place. It would also give me a chance to catch up with Frank. In the previous two years, we had become close. Working counterterrorism (CT) operations overseas has a way of doing that to people, no matter which agencies pay their salaries. In the CT business the hours are long with much of the work taking place at night after already putting in a full day. It is the rare weekend that doesn't include working overtime. With the exception of a frustrated spouse here and there, no one complains. Not only is the CT mission vitally important, work against this complex and lethal threat is unparalleled in terms of personal challenge and excitement. In Frank's and my case, not only did the intensity of the CT work bind us together, but other events had forged our close relationship. In one instance, the country where we were serving had experienced an attempted coup. Although the attempt failed, the tension and uncertainty that it generated was nonetheless a memory maker for both of us.

Other dramatic experiences included the emergency medical evacuation of a station colleague who suffered a life-threatening medical event, and the tragic death of Frank's father who collapsed and died during a family visit. I was at the emergency room as the doctors tried unsuccessfully to revive his beloved father as Frank looked on. The strength and steadfast demeanor showed by Frank during that personal ordeal was extraordinary but not surprising given his strong personal character and his intense religious faith. On this cloudless September morning in Washington, I would never have believed that within minutes Frank and I would yet again share an experience neither of us would ever forget.

At about 8:30 a.m. I tossed the empty cappuccino cup in the waste can and crossed the street to the side entrance of FBI Headquarters. Within a few minutes a van pulled up; Frank and the delegation members climbed out.

Frank was the first to emerge, and he gave me a warm embrace. "Hey brother, I'm glad you came."

"Are you kidding? I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

"¿Jefe, como anda?" called out Ernesto Perez, one of the security officials in the delegation. I knew Ernesto well and was glad to see that he was part of the group.

"Bien, Ernesto. ¡Qué bueno verte de nuevo!"

Since my return from South America I had not spoken any Spanish, and the warm greetings that this particularly gregarious bunch began to pour at me in rapid-fire fashion put me through my Spanish-language paces.

We were scheduled to begin the tour at 9:00 a.m., and Frank ushered us into the building around 8:50. At the visitor control point we received guest badges and then took the elevator to the Operations Center, the FBI's focal point for monitoring activities and important developments across the globe. Oddly, the person who was scheduled to brief us could not be found, and soon it became apparent that something out of the ordinary was going on. The Ops Center was in high gear with people moving about quickly and multiple phones ringing. To our surprise, FBI Director Robert Mueller entered the room and briskly strode past us, a look of consternation on his face.

Before long, an FBI official came and informed Frank and I that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers, and he asked us to escort the foreign delegation out of the Ops Center. There would be no briefing or tour that morning. Receiving no other details about the incident, we assumed it was probably a small private plane that had hit the building. We decided to take the delegation downstairs to the FBI cafeteria until we could sort out what to do about the abrupt change in schedule.

A handful of FBI employees with coffee cups in hand were standing in the cafeteria watching a television mounted on a wall tuned to the unfolding news story in New York. We were shocked to see the images of flames and smoke billowing out of the North Tower. The scenes instantly disproved our previous assumption that it was a small plane and explained the high state of alert upstairs.

Just as we began to understand the enormity of the disaster that was taking place at the North Tower, we saw that the South Tower had just been struck as well, making the fact that the U.S. was under attack plainly clear.

I knew at that instant that al-Qa'ida was behind what was happening. It was exactly the kind of attack for which al-Qa'ida strove — spectacular, simultaneous strikes resulting in mass casualties of innocent people. Watching the screen, it was painfully obvious the terrorist group had succeeded in its goal.

There was little talking among the group of people now gathered in the cafeteria, except for the occasional murmur of "Oh, my God" or some similar expression of shock and disbelief. When the North Tower crumbled there was an audible reaction of horror. Later, when the second tower collapsed, the reaction was more muted. We were too stunned to say anything.

I have just witnessed the death of thousands of people, I thought to myself. It was like a nightmare. I knew, however, that no matter how much I wished otherwise, this was not a dream, and I said a silent prayer for all those souls that had been taken so violently from this life. It was a prayer I would say many times in the days ahead.

Standing in the cafeteria watching the news reports with my stunned friends, I began to comprehend the implications of this outrageous act. I believed it would mean war, and I was certain I knew who the enemy was. Al-Qa'ida had declared itself the enemy of the United States long before this day — September 11, 2001 — and had proven it with deadly attacks against the U.S.S. Cole and two U.S. embassies in Africa. I had visited one of those embassies only a month before it was bombed. In fact, I had stood in the exact spot where the bomb-laden truck would later detonate. Ironically, I had been standing there having a conversation with an embassy official about my concerns regarding the security vulnerabilities of the facility. His response: "Yeah, we know. The Ambassador has tried to get State Department approvals to move the embassy to a more secure location but with no success. Nothing will be done until this embassy is blown down."

Where the Africa embassy bombings and that of the Cole had apparently failed in making clear alQa'ida's sincerity in its declaration of war, I was certain the attacks I had just witnessed in New York would succeed in convincing any remaining doubters that inaction was no longer an option.

Through the swirl of my emotions, I knew one other thing as well: I had to be part of my country's response. This thought was not motivated by any professional ambition, but by an urgent, allconsuming desire to do something to avenge the outrageous, murderous act I had just witnessed, and to stop it from ever happening again.

In that moment, in some deeply personal almost spiritual way, I understood that this horrific crime and my own destiny were now linked. I felt that fate had ordained that I join the CIA many years before, and that my career, and indeed perhaps my entire life, had been a preparation for this moment and for what I knew must lie ahead.


Plenty of Parking

After all the traffic evacuating Washington cleared out, sometime after 11:00 a.m., Frank loaded the foreign delegation into the van and took them back to their hotel. It would be almost a week before they were able to get a flight back home. I don't know if they ever got their briefings on the threat of international terrorism. It didn't really matter; they had already learned the lesson.

For my part, I got in my Hyundai and drove to Langley. On the way I crossed the Roosevelt Bridge, and in the distance I could see columns of smoke rising high into the sky above the Pentagon, struck earlier by hijacked American Airlines flight 77. It was another surreal moment, and it powerfully brought home to me that war had arrived at my country's doorstep.

The traffic was light as I took the George Washington Parkway to the Route 123 exit and headed west to the entrance to CIA Headquarters. The CIA Security Police manning the entrance were in full threat regalia — submachine guns, 12 Gauge pump-action shotguns, and full body armor — clearly not the standard uniform. In my entire career I had never seen them so heavily armed. I stopped and showed them my Agency badge and was silently waved through the gate.

Turning into the southwest parking lot, I was shocked to see a sight that I'd never seen at Headquarters during a weekday — an empty parking lot close to the building! Not even on weekends had I ever seen such a deserted lot. It was then that I realized that Headquarters must have been evacuated as a precautionary measure in case the CIA compound was on alQa'ida's target list. Of course it made perfect sense, and I chided myself for not thinking about that before driving over. Nonetheless, I made the best of the situation and parked mere steps from the building.

I half expected to find the southwest entrance locked, but it was open and a security officer was at her post. Once through the turnstile, I made my way through deserted corridors and took the elevator up to the front office of the Near East and South Asia Division (known as the NE Division), the CIA component where I was home-based. It appeared as if the entire section was completely abandoned, but in one office I found a sole occupant — a forlorn looking, middle-aged woman named Betty who I did not recognize. I introduced myself.

"Are you an NE Division officer?" she asked.

"I am, but I've been overseas on an assignment with Counterterrorist Center for the last couple of years. I'm on leave right now but, well, after today, I'm ready to come back to work."

"Okay, I'll make a note and let the Division know. Where can we get hold of you?"

I told her we were temporarily at the Oakwood apartments until we could move into our house, and I gave her the telephone number.

"Is the Division Chief around?" I asked.

"He's with the Director right now. I don't know when he'll return."

"Alright, I'll check back tomorrow morning and see what the Division wants me to do."

"Sure," Betty said. "There really is nothing for you to do right now. Tomorrow we should know something more."

I went back to my car and drove to our apartment. Oblivious to the scenic charm of the tree-lined twists and turns of Kirby Road, images of the burning World Trade Center buildings flashed through my mind as I tried to comprehend the magnitude of the events of the morning and the horror that the victims of the attack must have experienced. That they did not deserve to die this way was the thought that kept coming to me. They were innocent. The people behind the attack had to be punished and destroyed. They were beyond any hope of redemption.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I heard on the radio that schools were being dismissed early because of the attacks. My wife was in Europe on a business trip, so responsibility for the kids on that fateful day fell to me alone. I knew by now they must have heard something about the attacks and might be upset and worried.

In the case of our daughter, who was a college sophomore at the University of Virginia, all I needed to do was to make a phone call to reassure her we were okay. Our son, however, was at a nearby middle school, and I decided to go pick him up rather than have him take the bus home. I wasn't the only parent who had made this decision, and the school parking lot was a chaotic mix of buses, cars, and kids. Out of the crowd of kids, I spotted my son standing by his bus stop. He wasn't hard to pick out. He stood taller than most of the other kids, and he was dressed in his skateboarder's ensemble: baggy pants, an oversized T-shirt, baseball cap, and a pair of Van's shoes that looked like they could have been size 14. Knowing he wouldn't be looking for me, I managed to find a spot to park and walked toward him.

"Hey, Bud!" I called.

Surprised, he turned to look at me.

"Come on. Let's go."

"Dad, what's going on? They said there's been some kind of attack with planes. What happened?"

On the way to the apartment I told him about the attacks, but I knew he would not really understand the magnitude of the situation until he saw the video of the planes hitting the Twin Towers and their terrible fall. 9/11 would be for him and his generation what the Kennedy assassination had been for mine — a shocking introduction to the awful things that men are capable of doing.

As we pulled into the Oakwood complex, it looked like most of the occupants were already home given the full parking lot, but it was eerily quiet. There was no one on the tennis courts or at the pool, and walking down the hallway of our building I didn't hear a sound. The place was like a tomb.

As all of America did, my son got his chance that day to watch the videos of the day's horrific events, probably more times than he should have, and out of concern for his mental health I eventually told him to go outside and practice on his skateboard. I think that was the only time I ever encouraged him in that particular sport.

I woke up several times that night thinking again that maybe the events of the day had only been a very bad dream. I did this for several nights, but each morning I awakened to the depressing reality of the great disaster that had struck my country.



The night i was born my father was raiding a moonshine still in the mountains of north Georgia. It is a claim few can truthfully make and to my mind it augured well for an interesting life to come. My father was largely responsible for that. Born and raised in depression-era Georgia, at age 16 and tired of picking cotton, he dropped out of school and hopped trains to California, joining the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). As a "pick and shovel technician" he built hiking trails along the forested northern California coast. After saving a drowning Army Sergeant, for which he received the CCC's highest decoration, he was promoted to working on the beach handing out towels and selling soft drinks.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, Dad joined the Army. Landing at Normandy on June 10th, four days after the initial invasion, he would fight through the entire European campaign that followed. Almost captured during the Battle of the Bulge, he went on to cross the bridge at Remagen just before it collapsed. Before the war's end, he had risen to the rank of corporal — three times. This was a fact he took some delight in mentioning.

Returning home, he finally got his high school diploma and graduated from the University of Georgia, receiving a regular Army 2nd Lieutenant's commission through the ROTC program. Dad would see combat again, this time in Korea as a tank company commander, where battles resulting in 500 enemy dead were characterized as skirmishes in official reports. After Korea he resigned his commission to enter federal law enforcement as a "revenuer" raiding stills and chasing moonshiners on the twisting back roads of the north Georgia mountains; hence, his absence on my birth night.

Afterward, Dad transferred to the U.S. Forest Service as a criminal investigator, and the family moved to a rural community in the Rio Grande valley south of Albuquerque. I spent my formative years there among the cottonwood trees and alfalfa fields crisscrossed by irrigation canals and barbed-wire fences. All of this watched over by the ever-present Manzano Mountains that stood blue and purple on the distant horizon.

At one point we had eleven horses, two milk cows, a good bird dog named Kate, and an occasional pig or two, no names assigned. Much of my daily routine revolved around keeping those animals fed and watered, and in the case of the cows, emptied of milk twice a day, every day.

For fun, in addition to riding those horses, three of which we had broken and trained ourselves over the course of a summer, my other past time was playing Army, imagining I was fighting the enemies my father had once fought. I also loved hunting, particularly the fast action that followed the flush of a covey of desert quail that Kate had pointed. But the big event was elk hunting in the Pecos Wilderness in northern New Mexico when we would pack into the mountains on horseback and set up a base camp from which we forayed early each morning into the yellow-leafed aspen forests of mid-autumn in search of bull elk.


Excerpted from "Foxtrot in Kandahar"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Duane Evans.
Excerpted by permission of Savas Beatie LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Glossary of Acronyms,
Prologue: Pakistan — November 2001,
Chapter 1: Outrage,
Chapter 2: Plenty of Parking,
Chapter 3: Roots,
Chapter 4: A Day Late,
Chapter 5: A Threshold Crossed, A Spark Ignited,
Chapter 6: Mission Over Process,
Chapter 7: Change Comes Hard,
Chapter 8: "Pasha",
Chapter 9: Suspicious Minds,
Chapter 10: New Mission,
Chapter 11: Pakistan on My Mind,
Chapter 12: Saying Goodbye,
Chapter 13: Islamabad,
Chapter 14: Karzai,
Chapter 15: A Full Up Team,
Chapter 16: A Devoted Man,
Chapter 17: Off Again, On Again,
Chapter 18: New Team, New Mission,
Chapter 19: A Question of Leadership,
Chapter 20: By the Seat of Our Pants,
Chapter 21: There Be Snakes,
Chapter 22: Infiltration,
Chapter 23: Reflections on Leadership,
Chapter 24: The Best Laid Plans,
Chapter 25: Wagons, Ho!,
Chapter 26: The Longest Night,
Chapter 27: The Longest Day,
Chapter 28: Bad News,
Chapter 29: Takhteh-Pol Days,
Chapter 30: Lightning Strikes — Twice,
Chapter 31: Friendly Fire,
Chapter 32: Kandahar,
Chapter 33: Paying the Freight,
Chapter 34: Link-up with Echo Team,
Chapter 35: Raids, Rubble, Rocks, and Lingerie,
Chapter 36: Tensions Among the Tribe,
Chapter 37: Death from Above,
Chapter 38: Do I Go or Do I Stay,
Chapter 39: Jacobabad Revisited,
Chapter 40: Home,
Postscript 2017,
Map: Afghanistan frontis opposite Chapter,
Map: Team Foxtrot: Area of Operations,
A gallery of photos follows page,

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