CIA officer who hunted bin Laden to speak

· 2 min read

CIA officer who hunted bin Laden to speak

A retired CIA operative who started the hunt for Osama bin Laden after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will speak at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on March 10.

Gary Schroen led an elite American covert team of seven officers into Afghanistan less than two weeks after the 9/11 attacks. In a CBS News interview 10 years later, Schroen said that his boss told him “I want you to cut bin Laden’s head off, put it on dry ice and send it back to me so I can show the president.”

During his appearance at UNL, Schroen will discuss U.S. policy implementation in Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. His address, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. in Avery Hall 115. His talk is sponsored by the Great Plains National Security Education Community and the UNL Convocation Committee.

Schroen, a former Islamabad chief of station, had been on the verge of retirement after 32 years with the CIA at the time of the attacks. While he was in Pakistan in the late 1990s, he was involved in efforts to locate bin Laden, who already was wanted for killing hundreds and wounding thousands by bombing embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In a 2006 interview with PBS’ Frontline, Schroen said he argued in favor of launching cruise missiles or bombers against bin Laden’s camp in southern Afghanistan in February 1999. The efforts were scuttled because of the risk of harm to possible U.S. allies in the camp with bin Laden.

Schroen has said he and his colleagues realized almost immediately that the attack was the work of bin Laden. In the Frontline interview, he said he “agreed with absolute joy” to rescind his retirement and head back to Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was not killed until May 2011. The $3 million in cash given Schroen’s team to accomplish its mission eventually grew into a $450 billion war that caused more than 2,326 U.S. military deaths. Schroen and his team, however, developed the working relationships with the Northern Alliance and other groups that eventually toppled the Taliban.

Schroen described the mission in “First In: An Insider’s Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan,” a 2005 bestseller.

“Gary Schroen is one of the most decorated foreign intelligence and operation officers in U.S. history,” said Tyler White, a UNL political science assistant professor of practice.

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