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Gary C. Schroen is a former Central Intelligence Agency field officer who was in charge of the initial CIA incursion into Afghanistan in September 2001 to topple the Taliban regime and to destroy Al Qaeda.
Schroen worked with the Agency for over 30 years, rising from case officer to Deputy Chief, Near East Division, Directorate of Operations in 1999, a post he held through 2001. During his career, Schroen served in numerous posts, including Station Chief in Kabul, Afghanistan (but working out of Pakistan) in the late 1980s. From 1992-1994, Schroen worked at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, controlling Iranian operations. Schroen was the chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan from 1996 until mid-1999. During this period, he directed CIA operations to find and capture Osama bin Laden, and began renewing relationships with the Mujahideen commanders who fought the Soviets in the Soviet-Afghan War.
Schroen's experiences in Afghanistan prior to September 11 were chronicled in Steve Coll's Pulitzer Prize–winning book, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. As a result of his experience working with the Northern Alliance during the course of his career, Schroen developed a friendship with Northern Alliance commander General Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Although he planned to retire, Schroen was recalled after the September 11th attacks to lead a CIA team into Afghanistan. The seven-officer team, which included renowned covert operative Billy Waugh, flew into Afghanistan on September 26, and began securing support among the Northern Alliance shortly before the arrival of US Army Special Forces ODA 555. He has since written the book First In, illustrating his Afghan experiences. Schroen was one of several inspirations for The Path to 9/11 character CIA Operative "Kirk", who writers claimed was a compilation based on several actual people.
In July 2013, Al-Shabaab claimed via Twitter to have killed Schroen in an attack. Quoting an unnamed United States official who said Al-Shabaab's Twitter claims should be taken with "a grain of salt", NBC News reported that Schroen was "alive and well".
- Gary Berntsen
- Cofer Black
- Operation Cyclone
- Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History
- Charlie Wilson's War (film)
- War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
- 2001 in Afghanistan
- Windrem, Robert (September 23, 2013). "Somali terror group has 20 American members, prone to strike outside Somalia". NBC News. Archived from the original on August 20, 2014.
- PBS Frontline - The Dark Side: Interview with Gary C. Schroen transcript
- Gary Schroen, First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Presidio Press (May 10, 2005) ISBN 0-89141-872-5.
- Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 Penguin Press HC, The (February 23, 2004) ISBN 1-59420-007-6.
- Michael Smith, "Killer Elite", St. Martin's Press, (March, 2007) ISBN 978-0-312-36272-0