Authors: Anthony Tata
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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For Brooke and Zachary, two great kids
The Indirect Approach
Hindu Kush, Afghanistan
May, Friday Morning, 0400 hours
He was born for combat. Fighting wars was his lot in life. He found a sense of purpose in this calling like no other. Only once had he tempted fate by seeking another course, and yet here he was, back in the fight where he belonged.
In a sense he had been fighting his entire adult life.
Napoleon had called it
, literally “at a glance.” It was the ability to see the battlefield in an instant and understand what needed to be done. Part innate ability and part learned skill, the talent was as rare amongst military commanders as true cunning and Machiavellian business acumen in the corporate world.
Whatever people wanted to call it, Colonel Zachary Garrett possessed this unique skill set, so much so that the United States defense community had entrusted much of the hunt for the most notable terrorists to him.
Standing in ankle-deep snow in a forgotten saddle of the Afghan Hindu Kush Mountains, Colonel Garrett looked down at the black radio handset, satisfied that he understood his mission.
Operation Searing Gorge is a go.”
The general’s voice was crisp and authoritative. “I say again, Operation Searing Gorge is a go.”
This is Raider six. Roger, understand Searing Gorge is a go, over.” Zachary relayed his acknowledgement to Major General Jack Rampert, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
See you on the high ground, son.”
Zachary stood beside his up-armored Humvee, the coiled radio handset cord trailing through the window, connecting to the satellite receiver affixed to the center console. The Afghan firmament was a never-ending blanket of darkness, interrupted only by the jagged white peaks that sprawled into Pakistan and farther north until they ultimately linked up with the Himalayas. Millions of stars were pinpricks in the black sheaf, offset by a waxing gibbous moon setting to the west.
The Hindu Kush Mountains made the Rocky Mountains in the United States look like foothills. Pike’s Peak, hovering just above fourteen thousand feet, was the highest peak on the Front Range in Colorado. By comparison, summits in Afghanistan commonly reached eighteen thousand to twenty thousand feet.
The enemy lived and fought at these altitudes.
A crisp breeze snapped past him, stinging his face. He shrugged off the historical fact that the literal interpretation of Hindu Kush was “Hindu Slaughter
” In 1382 the Muslims had routed the Hindus in one of the interminable wars that plagued this land. There had been no survivors.
What was more difficult to dismiss was his testy relationship with his boss, Major General Rampert, the commander of all special operations forces in Afghanistan. Yesterday they had gone toe to toe over the utility of this mission and Rampert hadn’t budged.
It’s suicide and you know it, General,” Colonel Garrett had said.
I thought you said you’d follow me to hell and back, Zach,” Rampert quipped, signature grimace acting as a smile.
Last time I checked the manifest, you weren’t on it.”
You got me there, son. But you know how important this mission is. Hell, your brother Matt’s the one who’s pushing it.”
That comment had stopped Zach cold. If true, his brother, a high level CIA operative, would have something worth getting after.
Bullshit . . . sir,” Zach responded, testing the commander. They had been standing in his sparsely furnished command office on Bagram Air Base.
Wouldn’t bullshit you about Matt. Someone needs to get up there and that someone needs to leave something behind.”
Zach had stared at Rampert for a long while and then said, “If Matt’s pushing this thing, then that someone will be me.”
It amazed Zach that over nine years after the 9-11 attacks, nearly seventy thousand United States and NATO troops continued to fight now resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda movements along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. Colonel Garrett was not part of that blend of conventional soldiers conducting combat operations and reconstruction missions. He and his men were not supposed to exist. Like ghosts, one moment they were present, and the next they were gone. They moved seamlessly around the battlefield in search of the most worthy targets.
He looked at his driver, Sergeant Lance Eversoll.
Looks like tonight we’re going to give it another shot, Solls.”
Eversoll’s skeptical grin told the story of several raids on Al Qaeda safe houses that had resulted in little to no results.