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The controversial New York Times bestseller that tells the "engrossing account of the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden." Kirkus Reviews (starred)
On May 2, 2011, at 1:03 a.m. a satellite uplink was sent from Pakistan crackling into the situation room of the White House: "Geronimo, Echo, KIA." These words, spoken by a Navy SEAL, ended Osama bin Laden's reign of terror. SEAL Target Geronimo is the story of Neptune's Spear from the men who were there. After talking to members of the SEAL team involved in the raid, Pfarrer shares never-before-revealed details in an exclusive account of what happened as he takes readers inside the walls of Bin Laden's compound penetrating deep into the terrorist's lair to reach the exact spot where the Al Qaeda leader was cowering when the bullet entered his head. SEAL Target Geronimo is an explosive story of unparalleled valor and clockwork military precision carried out by the most elite fighting force in the worldthe U.S. Navy's SEAL Team Six.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.30(d)|
About the Author
CHUCK PFARRER is a former assault element commander of SEAL Team Six. He has appeared as an author and counterterrorism expert on Good Morning America, NPR, and Fox News. He lives in Michigan.
Read an Excerpt
Seal Target Geronimo
By Chuck Pfarrer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Chuck Pfarrer
All rights reserved.
THE SEAL ROAD TO ABBOTTABAD
MEN WITH GREEN FACES
JUNE 2006: JOHNNY COFFEE AND DREW HOLLAND spent all of the sweltering day crowded into a hole slightly more than three feet wide and two feet deep. Camouflaged from head to toe, covered by fallen date fronds and bits of garbage, they were hiding almost in plain sight. They had inserted the night before by helicopter, patrolled along the fringes of a darkened Baghdad neighborhood, through a graveyard, over its crumbling walls and into a grove of date palms. They were dug in with their weapons facing slightly west, three hundred yards from a group of houses in the northwest corner of Baghdad. To an unpracticed eye, there was no place to hide under the palms. There were no bushes, no scrub, no terrain features that looked large enough to hide even a dog, let alone two men loaded down with weapons and communications equipment. But they were in, they were set up, and they were waiting.
Johnny and Drew were a "shooting pair," a sniper and spotter from Joint Task Force 20, a hunter-killer element of the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC. Pronounced "jay-sock," it is an umbrella organization that oversees America's premier counterterrorism operators, including SEAL Team Six and the Army's Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, (SFOD-D), aka Delta Force. Both men hidden in the date grove were members of the smallest and most elite special operations unit in the world: SEAL Team Six.
Johnny Coffee was the designated shooter; he was thirty-four years old and had been a Navy SEAL and a sniper for more than a decade. This was his second tour in Iraq, and his fifth combat deployment. His spotter and boss on this mission, Drew, was six months older than Johnny, but already a master chief petty officer, and the OIC (officer in charge) of the sniper cell of SEAL Team Six. They were operating using the call sign Stingray Zero Two.
Johnny and Drew had been in many hides together, in many places, and knew to trust both their camouflage and each other. In their line of work, this sort of a hiding place was called a "spider hole" — and for good reason. Early after sunup, Johnny had to endure the attentions of a six-inch-long camel spider as it leisurely made its way up his arm, across his shoulder, and over the back of his neck. Even if they didn't care for the neighbors, it was a good layup. They were well hidden, and if things should go wrong, there was hard cover just behind them: a section of mud brick wall and a stretch of canal where they could make a stand if it came to a gunfight.
Both of the men hidden under the trees were masters of their craft. In their lifetimes, they had been on hundreds of missions and in dozens of hides. This operation was important, perhaps even the most important one they would ever perform, but minute to minute and hour to hour, they could be forgiven for thinking that this op was like every other SLJ they'd ever been sent on. "LJ" stands for "little job," and the "S" can stand for a couple of things.
They waited, and they sweated. The building they were watching was an Al Qaeda safe house. In it, intel told them, was Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden's operational commander in Iraq. But intel was sometimes wrong.
In front of them, where the date grove ended, was a dusty playing field and the corner of a sprawling dump. Johnny put his rifle scope on the last house on the end, a two-story place where the dirt road turned off to the north. All day, no one came in or out. Women, children, and old men walked by the house but no one seemed to visit. That was reason enough to keep watching.
Johnny and Drew had chosen their layup well — that had been proven shortly after noon, when a group of children and their mother walked into the grove and gathered some of the fallen fronds to cook their lunch. For ten agonizing minutes, the children trotted back and forth in front of their hiding place, gathering scraps of wood and breaking stems of date palms. Finally, mother and kids wandered back to their village and the SEALs could exhale.
The afternoon passed like a slow, hazy, and not-so-pleasant daydream.
Johnny and Drew had operated together so long that they half joked that they could read each other's minds. When snipers are in a hide, they do not speak to each other, even in whispers. They make themselves understood using hand signals — a simple language sufficient to communicate range, direction, weapon status, and the presence of an enemy. When on an operation, there is no need to communicate abstract ideas or idle chat. All of their attention, and all of their beings, are projected downrange. Such concentration is necessary if one is to take a one-thousand-yard head shot.
At two o'clock a white Toyota truck stopped in front of the house, but drove off after a few seconds. There was no sign of Zarqawi, and Johnny began to wonder, Maybe there's no HVI at all. "HVI" is SEALspeak for a "high-value individual." Johnny and Drew were prepared to wait all night, and the next night, if necessary. If there was a shot to take — they would make it.
A little after three o'clock, a dump truck arrived and tipped a stinking bin full of glutinous trash. It landed close enough for Johnny to count the plops it made hitting the ground. First came the stink, and then came the flies. The afternoon seemed to stretch into an infinity of small annoyances and gnawing frustration.
At 1600 hours, 4:00 p.m., Drew texted "no joy" on the burst transmitter. They'd been watching the house now for a little over twelve hours, and had seen no one. They could not ID the man they had been sent after. Drew received a two-word answer from the Joint Operations Center: "Wait. Out."
When it was full dark, Johnny pointed a thermal imaging scope at the house. In reds and blues, he could see a plume of heat coming from the chimney; dinner was being prepared, and now and again someone would move past the gate and the head-high mud wall that enclosed the front yard. Whoever lived in the house slept during the day.
Two nights earlier, the SEALs had captured one of Zarqawi's couriers, a nineteen-year-old Jordanian who had volunteered as a shaheed — a martyr. When captured, the would-be martyr had a change of heart. Soon after processing, he asked about the bounty that coalition forces had offered for information concerning Zarqawi's whereabouts.
The defector was told that if he wanted cash he had to provide something valuable. He did. He gave up both his boss's location and a cell phone number. Drew and Johnny were inserted even before the man had finished talking.
Nothing had happened for twelve hours, and now, as usual, everything was happening at once. An hour after dark, a car arrived and two men got out. Another two arrived on foot and went inside. Two more pickup trucks arrived, delivering about a dozen more men into the house. Johnny had seen AK-47s and RPG launchers, and heavy backpacks that might contain explosives — or things that were even more dangerous.
Now there were at least fourteen armed men inside the house?.?.?.? maybe more. It occurred to both of the SEALs that they might have been lured into a trap. Johnny and Drew had infiltrated as stealthily as possible; they had a plan to defend themselves, and another plan to break contact, but both knew they were very far from help if things should really go south.
Drew sent an update on his burst transmitter: "14 MAM, small arms Location Fisher Cat No Joy on HVI." Fourteen military-aged males, with AKs and RPGs at the target — and still no sign of Musab al-Zarqawi.
Drew was careful to keep the light from the screen covered as an answer scrolled back from the Joint Operations Center at Task Force 20: "Ears on."
Drew tapped his partner on the shoulder. He placed two fingers of his right hand under his eyes, the SEAL hand signal meaning "enemy in sight." Drew touched his headphone and Johnny nodded — they had their man on the cell phone, and he was talking.
At 10:10 p.m., Musab al-Zarqawi finally made a call, and Task Force 20 was listening. Zarqawi's words were beamed around the world, compared to previously intercepted communications, and his voiceprint was analyzed. Technicians in Langley, Virginia, confirmed the identification, and a second text message was flashed by satellite.
"Stingray Zero Two is cleared hot."
For the past eighteen months, Zarqawi had recruited truck bombers, killed journalists and politicians, and staged videotaped beheadings — all to force the nation of Iraq to adopt a government based on Islamic law. Now he was presiding over a meeting of armed men. No one had any idea what Zarqawi had planned for the night — a kidnapping, a bombing, or maybe both.
Zarqawi was in the building, and the SEALs had authorization to engage the target. The fact remained that Johnny and Drew were outnumbered, but being invisible had its advantages. The two SEALs had the element of surprise, and they had technology. Drew's thumb depressed a switch on a rectangular box fixed to the receiver of his rifle. From an AN/PEQ-2 laser illuminator, an invisible, infrared beam streamed toward the second floor of the building.
Johnny typed out another text: "Laser hot."
The answer scrolled back: "Reaper Copies."
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had less than ninety seconds to live.
Six miles above the date grove, unseen and unheard, a Predator drone, call sign Reaper Three Zero, banked at the edge of the stratosphere. Its sensors rolled over the city below. Streetlights, car headlights, the lights of houses spread in a rolling blanket, like a mosaic of stars. The lights marked progress and peace, businesses and places where families lived. In the dark places there was poverty, frustration, and anger. The dark places were where men like Zarqawi preached hatred and planned murder.
One hundred miles away from Baghdad, in an air-conditioned van parked off the runway at a secret air base, a pair of CIA pilots sat in front of a wall filled with computer monitors. Some of their screens showed maps, others flight paths, some showed the status of communication links and satellites, and some of them were digital representations of flight instruments that controlled a forty-six-foot-long, turbo-powered messenger of death.
The pilot pulled back a small joystick and placed a Predator drone into a lazy figure-eight turn, while the copilot armed up a pair of AGM 114 Hellfire missiles. Cameras zoomed: the pilots could see the Euphrates River snaking through the center of Baghdad; the north part of the city; Sadr City, gloomy and sprawling; and the sharp edge of the Army Canal. The cameras that panned in the feed went to infrared. The lens drifted over Bilal al Habashi Street, where the fields started to open up. Then the dump, the playing field, and the date palms, all rendered in shades of green.
Tucked into the edge of the date grove was Stingray Zero Two. Drew and Johnny showed up as hot, oblong blips, betrayed by body temperature.
As the pilots watched, Drew's laser beam glittered and pointed across the open spaces, illuminating the second floor of the mud-walled house where the road turned into the fields. In the Predator's control van, the pilot pressed a button. A pair of missiles dropped from the drone's outboard pylons and silently fell away into the dark sky. Their rocket engines ignited, and the missiles started to spiral toward their target.
The Hellfires quickly went transonic, then supersonic, traveling faster than the roar made by their rocket engines. The warheads homed unerringly on the laser beam. In the date grove, Drew and Johnny waited for the sound of the rocket motors' ignition, a sort of muffled thud from the clouds above. They heard it, ten seconds after it happened, a sound like someone beating dust from a rug, whump, whump.
It meant the missiles were on their way.
Even if Musab al-Zarqawi looked up and saw them coming, there was no place he could run. Johnny made sure that the laser was locked on the building. If Zarqawi jumped into a car, Johnny would put the laser on him.
It was over.
Zarqawi didn't show his face, but it didn't matter. The missiles found him.
Moving too fast to see, the first Hellfire ripped through the roof of the house and detonated in a splash of orange-white light. The initial explosion seemed to widen the walls and lift the roof. The second missile struck the courtyard just in front of the building, cratering it and destroying the three vehicles parked on the road. But then another blast tore through the building. It was what the SEALs called a secondary; the missiles had set off a cache of explosives — bomb-making materials Zarqawi had planned to use in his campaign of terror. This last explosion obliterated the structure, turning it upside down and inside out.
The explosions echoed back from the riverbanks, and as they faded away, there came the sound of whizzing bits of concrete, the fluttering descent of shattered doors and roof tiles, the thuds made by bits of furniture, the clank of car parts, pots and pans, ammo crates and bits of glass. Also falling to earth were pieces of men.
Drew remembered that after the blast, the night seemed impossibly still and quiet. For five minutes, not even the crickets sang.
The two SEALs collected their equipment, checked their weapons and slipped back into the dump, over the crumbling wall toward their extract point. The mission was over, and now all they had to do was get out.
Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden's handpicked deputy in Iraq, had killed thousands of people in an attempt to send the world back to the sixth century. In a fitting bit of irony, two operators from SEAL Team Six had killed him with an invisible laser beam and a flying robot.
The United States military has a long on-again and off-again love affair with special operations forces. Throughout its history, the United States has created special purpose units, battalions of sharpshooters, rangers and pathfinders, parachutists, and various sorts of frogmen and commandos, only to disband the units after their wars had been won.
As the Cold War wound through the fifties and sixties, the Pentagon faced a series of low-intensity conflicts with Soviet proxies, but still had to worry about fighting "the Big One," a global war with the Warsaw Pact. While it was correctly seen that brush wars did not require the deployment of Normandy-style invasions, the Pentagon was not allowed the luxury of creating purpose-built special operations forces to fight boutique wars. The threat posed by the Soviet Union meant that the U.S. had to keep a large, standing force in being.
The Green Berets and the SEALs were both created by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. The U.S. Army's special forces were originally envisioned as trainers. In the event that the Soviet Union invaded Western Europe, the Green Berets were to be left behind to organize resistance movements within the occupied countries. Each Green Beret A-Team was designed to form a nucleus about which guerrilla forces could grow. Of course, in order to teach the black arts, it is first necessary to master them, and the Green Berets were superbly trained. Each member of a Green Beret A-Team had both language training and an operational specialty. Some were communicators, some demolition experts; some were air operations specialists and some were scuba trained. All Green Berets were parachute qualified and schooled in intelligence collection, covert communication, tradecraft, and operational planning.
The Navy created its special warfare program from the famed Underwater Demolition Teams who served in World War II and Korea. This new force would be called the SEAL Teams — "SEAL" being short for the elements in which they would be trained to operate — sea, air, and land.
The operational element of the Green Berets is an A-Team, a unit roughly analogous to a SEAL platoon, that is, two officers and twelve enlisted men. A-Teams tend to specialize: one might be trained demolitionists, another arctic warfare specialists, and still another equipped to carry out high-altitude parachute operations. The Army set out to create the skeleton around which it could grow partisan armies to harass the flanks and rear of the Soviet juggernaut.
The SEAL Teams were created with another mission in mind — direct action against the enemy. SEALs retain the ability to serve as special operations trainers, and have the capability to organize indigenous forces, but their primary mission, their raison d'être, is hurting the enemy. And in that mission, they are the best in the world.
It is one thing to announce the formation of a handpicked unit. It is quite another thing to bring one into existence. When President Kennedy authorized the formation of the Green Berets and the SEAL Teams, the Pentagon had to answer two questions: Whom do you pick? And how do you train them?
The Army split the difference between quantity and quality. The Navy set out from the beginning to make Cadillacs. The SEAL Teams started with slightly over fifty men on two coasts. SEAL Teams One and Two were so top secret that volunteers from the Underwater Demolition Teams were initially not told the name of the unit or its mission. They had to volunteer blind.
Excerpted from Seal Target Geronimo by Chuck Pfarrer. Copyright © 2012 Chuck Pfarrer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Preface to the Paperback Edition: An Inconvenient Bit of History xi
Neptune's Spear: The Bigger Picture 1
Abbottabad: May 1, 2011-Late That Night 5
The Seal Road to Abbottabad
Men with Green Faces 11
An Invisible Empire: The Birth of the Joint Special Operations Command 29
Team Jedi 35
Going Solo 43
Maersk Alabama 49
Bin Laden's Road to Abbottabad
The Day the World Changed-September 11, 2001 69
Rich Kid 75
Learning to Hate 79
The Making of a Jihadi 95
Hero of the Lion's Den 101
The Emir 123
Weapons of Mass Denial 135
Continue to Plan, Plan to Continue 147
Vanishing Act 159
Pointing a Finger 177
Neptune's Spear 187
Thirty-eight Minutes 205
What Came After 219
How This Book Was Written 237
Selected Bibliography 255
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Excellent! A really good narrative of the operation that did in Osama bin Laden. And more than that, it¿s a cogent summary of the trajectories of SEAL Team 6 and bin Laden toward their fatal convergence in Abbottabad the night of 1 May 2011. I think I finally understand what is going on in the Muddle East, The tone of the narrative is conversational, like face-to-face over coffee. Easy reading. Fast paced. Minute-to-minute you¿re a fly on the wall of the planning cell, rehearsal, mounting out for the mission, in the assault helo and action at the objective. Fine grained enough for a military man doing his professional reading yet presented so well that we all can understand it. The author explains how, in this kind of warfare, equally as important as winning each engagement is winning the battle of the narrative. With this book USA won this one both ways.
Truly one of the most exciting books I've ever read. Great work by the author. God Bless our Military and God Bless Seal Team SIX!!!! Gotta love our Jedis
Way more than just the raid to get Osama bin Laden. For a relatively short book it is an excellent history of middle east problems and how our great Navy SEALS have met many challanges. I highly recommend this book. You will be very proud of our military and it's dedicated men and women.
I felt this book was an excellent read. It provided significant insight into the events leading up to and the actual raid which killed Bin Laden. Definitely worth a reread as well.
I am a Navy brat and wife and actually live in a house that faces Seal Beach in California, so this book hit home for me. I was so eager and enthralled to receive this book for review and am absolutely glad I did. We all know our government is never honest with us – from monetary to militia – they have their own agenda and we the people are to blindly follow and without question. I give much kudos to Chuck Pfarrer for having the courage to write about the Bin Laden mission and with so much detail. He has a natural flair for writing and easily takes military lingo and puts it into laymen terms for civilians (non-military folk) to understand. Lets face it, after 34 years, I still get baffled by all of the abbreviations. “The SEAL Teams were created with another mission in mind— direct action against the enemy.” Chuck takes readers through the entire Bin Laden raid and killing mission, what went wrong, what was altered, what information seems sketchy or missing, and meshes it with information from those people who were actually there on the ground (people from the community), as well as from tech sources (documents, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and puts together a case that is far more convincing than what our own government would have us believe. While it is always important to be free thinkers and come to our conclusions, Pfarrer, enables us to better come to our own decision. *You can view the original review at City Book Review
Excellent Book!! The title should actually be changed to The Things You Thought You Knew The Truth About, But Were Wrong". This does cover in detail Operation Neptune Spear that ultimately killed Osama Bin Laden, in addition it covers other acts of terrorism from the past & the reality of who was really behind it. i.e.: the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beruit was really assembled/planned by the Iranians & the bomb was transported by the Syrians through the Bekka Valley, there are WMD's in Iraq & they have been used against our troops by Bin Laden's crew. This book details the training involved to become a Navy Seal & how only the very best of the best are invited to join Seal Team 6. There's no doubt about it that American's should rest easier at night knowing that there are teams such as the Seals out there, doing the really tough, not so glamorous, dirty work that really keeps this country safe! To all the unsung true heros out there - Thanks!
Not enough about the actual raid - onlt about 30 pages. Too much bin laden history.
Nothing but an exceptional, informative look at history. This book was excellent and may have been the best nonfiction book I have ever read regarding the military. The background of the SEALs and first-hand knowledge about their mental and physical truing was wonderful. It gave you a feeling of how elite these warriors were and how important they are to the military. I was extremely surprised to get the description of the struggles in the Middle East. Most news outlets give you information, but compared to this book, it was nothing. It talked of how the media only tells you what they want you to know, like the government, or whatever increases their numbers. The history of the struggle in the Middle East from both perspectives significantly increased my understanding of the conflict. It was an easy read and not confusing with all the military lingo of some other books while reading like a fiction thriller. A wonderful insight into history and a wonderful read. Highly recommended!!!
Liked it a lot! Could have been a little less background on SEAL training. Get to the target sooner... JTV...
Awesome booooooook Recommend
I really liked this book :D
I highly recommend reading this book if you are interested in the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. Also includes the TRUTH about WMD's in Iraq and in the hands of Al Quida. Some reviewers complain there is not enough details about the raid. The author explains WHY. Some things must remain unsaid for OPSEC purposes. I think the author did a great job of telling us what we wanted to know without giving away non-essential details.
Gives a good brief history of Bin Laden and Navy SEAL. Discussion of SEAL training is interesting. Actual discussion of raid on Bin Laden's compound very brief. Book is not does not portray politicians in best light.
Lots of background about the middle east and its history, which seemed to drag on a bit too long. Interesting information about SEAL training and Bin Laden's life history, though. Interesting read.