With dramatis personae that include the CIA, Delta Force, DEVGRU, the Intelligence Support Activity, Pakistani Commandos, the Taliban, and spies from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), this story has the makings of a future Brad Thor bestseller. The only difference is, this story happened over the course of an eight-month period for a very small team of Army Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment.

It was early 2006. The place: Tarbela-Ghazi Airbase in Pakistan, headquarters for the Pakistani Commandos, officially identified as the Special Services Group—one of the premiere special-operations forces of the Pakistani military. Tarbela, a mere two-hour drive from the capital of Islamabad, also acts as the forward point of countless military offensive operations in Pakistan’s northwest frontier.

For the JSOC and CIA personnel who have been operating in this region for years, supporting both Operation Enduring Freedom and the war in northwest Pakistan, it was the war-fighting business as usual. For the seven Army Rangers chosen to embark on the unusually long eight-month deployment (Rangers typically deploy for three month at a time), it was a break from the monotony of direct-action missions throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pakistan_sm97This wasn’t an ordinary operation for the men of the 75th Ranger Regiment, whose mandate in foreign internal defense/advising operations are practically nonexistent. The CIA and JSOC forces on the ground were incredibly busy hunting down al-Qaeda and senior Taliban commanders in the tribal regions, creating target packages for drone strikes—some of which originated out of the Tarbela airbase. What they needed was a capable ground force.