cover image First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11

First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11

Toby Harnden. Little, Brown, $26.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-316-54095-7

Journalist Harnden (Dead Men Risen) delivers a riveting history of the first months of the war in Afghanistan. Days after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA developed a plan to insert teams of agents with paramilitary, regional, and linguistic expertise into Afghanistan. Team Alpha members David Tyson and Mike Spann joined Northern Alliance fighters and U.S. special forces in taking the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a precursor to the fall of Kandahar and the collapse of the Taliban government on Nov. 17, 2001. On Nov. 25, Spann and Tyson were at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress outside Mazar-i-Sharif to interrogate hundreds of captured al-Qaeda fighters, including U.S. citizen John Walker Lindh. The fighters had smuggled grenades and other weapons into the fort and started a violent uprising against their outnumbered captors. Spann was killed days later, becoming the first American casualty of the war; Tyson survived. Harnden skillfully interweaves dramatic action sequences with the backstories of the book’s central figures, and briskly highlights the failures of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Readers will be swept up in this little-known chapter of America’s “forever war.” Agent: Keith Urbahn, Javelin. (Sept.)