Desert sands swirled around Jenna and her extraction team. There were nine members in all, four from Delta, three French mercs, two agents from Mossad, and two dogs, Razz and Summer. They boarded the Blackhawk in silence, each of them resigned to carry out the classified mission. They were flying directly into a hell hole deep in the Kandahar mountains. The special ops leader who had briefed them at Fort Leatherneck made it clear that they would be flying into the heart of Taliban country. To say it was a suicide mission might jinks the team, so he left it unspoken that some of them might not be coming back.
Jenna had actually gasped out loud when she’d opened the mission packet and read what their objective was. “Holy hell!” escaped from her lips, causing Bear, Chaz, and the Breeze to stare at her, curiously. That she was rattled by the intel, all three could clearly see. Which made the three of them nervous, for they knew not much could shake up Doc Mac. This evidently did. She had immediately looked up at the two Mossad agents sharing the command tent with the team. “Am I to understand that should we fail, you are to act as cleaners?”
“What the hell?” Bear muttered, his dark eyes locked on the two Jewish agents. The taller of the two, a bald man with a scar creasing the left cheek of his weathered features, said, “Do you take us for assassins? I assure you, we would never resort to that.”
Mako laughed, thinking that Jenna was joking, that the Mossad agent was playing along with her. But the commander stoically said, “Mac, if you succeed with your work, loose ends will not have to be tied. Besides, using the terminology reserved for the mob is an insult to these two agents. You’ve been reading too many spy novels. If you make progress with the Lion of the Desert, then, odds are 50/50 he will become the catalyst for good. MacGuire, you could tip the scales in our favor. In other words, he can grow up to be another mujadeen terrorist or the Lion, Defender of Reformation.”
Bear offered Benson a confused look. “Reformation? Islam? That’s a hard dog to hunt with, Captain. One might say impossible.”
Reading from the intel packet, Jenna said, “Osama bin Laden was a Saudi Arabian citizen until 1994. He joined Mujahideen forces in Pakistan fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In 1988, he formed al-Qaeda and was banished from Saudi Arabia in 1992. After establishing a new base in Afghanistan, he declared war against the US. He was on the FBI lists of Ten Most Wanted Terrorists for masterminding the September 11 attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 3,000. From 2001 to 2011, the FBI offered a $25 million bounty for him. In May 2011, bin Laden was shot and killed by US Navy SEALs in Pakistan on the orders of President Obama.
“The word bin means son of. His admirers called him, Prince, Emir, Chieftain, Sheik. The word usāmah means lion, earning him the nickname Lion Sheik He fathered 26 children. Many of them fled to Iran following September 11 and as of 2010, Iranian authorities continue to control their movements. His ideology involved the concept that civilians from enemy countries, including women and children, were legitimate targets to kill. He believed that the Islamic world was in crisis, that the restoration of Sharia law would be the only way to set things right. He believed that Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban, was the only Islamic country in the Muslim world. He used violent jihad to right injustices against Muslims by the US. He called upon the US to withdraw from the Middle East. He was indicted on terrorism charges by law enforcement agencies in Madrid, New York City, and Tripoli.
“He claimed that the revenge killing of Americans was justified. Since the US is a democracy, all citizens bear responsibility for its actions and are targets. His strategy for achieving his goals against the US was to lure them into a long war, bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. He believed American civilians could lawfully be punished by death. By uniting Afghan warlords, he established camps inside of Pakistan and trained volunteers from across the Muslim world to fight. He set up a base in Afghanistan. From this base, bin Laden participated in combat against the Soviets. al-Qaeda was an Islamic faction, its goal to make his religion victorious.
“During the raid on the Pakistan compound, Hamza bin Laden the son of Osama, was not found. Letters seized from the compound suggested the elder bin Laden was grooming him as a leader. Hamza took over al-Qaeda after Osama’s death. In 2014, Hamza was killed in a counter-terrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. His death not only deprived al Qaeda of important leadership skills, but undermined operational activities. He was responsible for dealing with various terrorist groups. Hamza’s last known public statement was released by al Qaeda in 2018. In that message, he called on the people of the Arabian peninsula to revolt.”
Jenna paused in her reading of the intelligence brief. The others in the command tent watched her intently. Whatever information she was digesting, she was either finding it hard to believe or it was not pleasant material. After reading the last of the missive quite thoroughly, she looked up, taking in their curious looks.