When we arrived back at Kandahar we found a buzz going through the entire camp. Our planned 12-hour outing had turned into one of the most high-profile missions of the war effort to date, and everyone was fired up about it. 

Some of the other snipers, especially the Danes and Germans, started requesting that Osman and I come over and debrief with them so they could learn more about the terrain and the forces we were up against. The notoriety of our success at Zhawar Kili soon led to a request from the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), the Germany Special Operations team assigned to Task Force K-Bar. They had been slated to go with the Army Rangers on a direct action mission, but after that disastrous ODA mission had gone bad they changed their minds and said they would rather join forces with Navy SEALs. 

After the attacks on 9/11 the world, in general, felt a tremendous amount of solidarity with America, and nobody more so than Germany. The German people were horrified at what had happened in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksville, and our KSK buddies were pretty much in the same frame of mind we were: They wanted to get into the action. 

The historical significance of the fact that we were going out on a joint raid with German Special Operations forces was lost on none of us. The last time the Germans were on a battlefield was in World War II, and then we were on opposite sides of the trenches. Ditto in World War I. Hell, there were Hessian mercenaries arrayed against us in the Revolutionary War. This would be the first military mission with German and American forces working together since… well, since ever.

The Germans were amazingly well-trained and extremely solid guys. Most of them also spoke decent conversational English, so communication was not an issue. It was about time we got to work together, and our association was one of the highlights of my experience in Afghanistan. 

Our mission briefing started off with the Germans’ OIC, Major Mike. (I never learned his last name, and who knew if “Michael” was even his real first name, since most of us were going by nicknames anyway, and they all had fake identities.) Major Mike had developed the mission plan jointly with Cassidy, who would get input from all of us on particulars of helo landing site, insertion points, and other elements of the plan.

This was an HVT mission, meaning a high-value target. We were going to descend on an Afghan village called Prata Ghar, a handful of miles northwest of Zhawar Kili, in search of an important al-Qaeda higher-up. Prata Ghar was also the site of another cave complex with known al-Qaeda ties. The site consisted of one large central building, four stories tall, surrounded by about a dozen smaller buildings. As this was a joint raid, we would divide up the village and field of fire: The Germans would take down the large central building, and we would comb and clear all the others. 

We flew up to Bagram in a C-130 (by now my preferred mode of air travel) the day before and prepared for the op. As usual, we would be leaving in the middle of the night so we could get on target hours before first light when anyone in their right mind would be asleep. We needed to hit these guys hard and fast.