KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - While Americans paused last Friday to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks, members of a select anti-drug task force were busy in Afghanistan honoring the fallen in their own way.
Before dawn broke on September 11, several dozen warriors gathered on a dark airstrip in Kandahar, Afghanistan to commemorate 9/11 their way - with a capture/kill mission on a Taliban kingpin. They loaded onto unmarked Russian helicopters for the insertion, joined by a team of agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration's foreign advisory and support team, or FAST.
Because Afghan opium is one of the Taliban's major sources of funding, the FAST team uses specialized intelligence gathering techniques perfected in the jungles of Colombia to pinpoint drug lords in places where the Taliban have until now enjoyed complete freedom of movement. With the help of the U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos, the FAST team is turning up the heat on the Taliban drug trade.
The helicopters lifted off and sped toward the objective low and fast - the best way to maintain the element of surprise. Landing at first light, they deployed quickly around the Taliban compound to keep anyone from slipping away. Then they began a methodical search of each and every building. Women and children were gently led to safety, while military-age males were held for interrogation.
The search turned up several kilos of opium, heroin and more importantly, materials used to construct improvised explosive devices. The kind which have become the biggest killer of American troops in Afghanistan.
The contraband was collected up and destroyed with military plastic explosives. For these special operators, it was a fitting tribute to those who died on 9/11 - a direct hit on the Taliban's pocketbook that hurts their ability to wage terror.
Then the helicopters returned and the men loaded up for the trip back to base, already looking ahead to the next mission.