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Danger Close

Steve Call

Publication Year: 2010

“America had a secret weapon,” writes Steve Call of the period immediately following September 11, 2001, as planners contemplated the invasion of Afghanistan. This weapon consisted of small teams of Special Forces operatives trained in close air support (CAS) who, in cooperation with the loose federation of Afghan rebels opposed to the Taliban regime, soon began achieving impressive—and unexpected—military victories over Taliban forces and the al-Qaeda terrorists they had sponsored. The astounding success of CAS tactics coupled with ground operations in Afghanistan soon drew the attention of military decision makers and would eventually factor into the planning for another campaign: Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But who, exactly, are these air power experts and what is the function of the TACPs (Tactical Air Control Parties) in which they operate? Danger Close provides a fascinating look at a dedicated, courageous, innovative, and often misunderstood and misused group of military professionals.

Drawing on the gripping first-hand accounts of their battlefield experiences, Steve Call allows the TACPs to speak for themselves. He accompanies their narratives with informed analysis of the development of CAS strategy, including potentially controversial aspects of the interservice rivalries between the air force and the army which have at times complicated and even obstructed the optimal employment of TACP assets. Danger Close makes clear, however, that the systematic coordination of air power and ground forces played an invaluable supporting role in the initial military victories in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This first-ever examination of the intense, life-and-death world of the close air support specialist will introduce readers to a crucial but little-known aspect of contemporary warfare and add a needed chapter in American military history studies.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Cover Page

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p. 1-1

Title Page

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

America had a secret weapon. Ironically, America didn’t realize it had this secret weapon until the events of 11 September 2001 plunged the nation into the War on Terror. Because of the unique circumstances of the fight to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan, America’s opening move sent small teams of Special Forces to link up with a loose-knit confederation of Afghan rebels. ...

List of Air Force Ranks and Abbreviations

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pp. xix-xx

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pp. 1-10

On 12 March 2001 the dawn brought a beautiful clear sky to Kuwait. The weather report called for good visibility and comfortable temperatures, both of which were important because there was a major daylong exercise scheduled for air and ground units from around the theater. ...

Part 1—Afghanistan

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1. The Challenge Is Clear—and Daunting

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pp. 13-24

The dust of the World Trade Towers had hardly settled before it became clear—Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, al Qaeda, were responsible. One other fact followed in the wake of this reality—the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, by harboring bin Laden and supporting al Qaeda training camps, was complicit in this heinous crime. ...

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2. Integrating the Special Forces—Close Air Support Team

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pp. 25-41

The fall of Mazar-e Sharif, especially the speed and totality of the Taliban’s collapse there, came as a major shock to many people around the world. It was a badly needed morale boost for anyone yearning to see justice meted out to the Taliban and al Qaeda. It also silenced those critics claiming the Rumsfeld-Franks strategy was doomed to failure. ...

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3. The Fall of the Taliban Regime

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pp. 42-56

After the fall of Mazar-e Sharif, the surviving Taliban and al Qaeda forces from that area retreated northeast to the city of Konduz. Konduz had been a Taliban stronghold and now it was reinforced. With the Northern Alliance advancing rapidly throughout Afghanistan, Konduz was the Taliban’s last northern power base. ...

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4. Operation Anaconda

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pp. 57-86

After the fall of Kandahar some Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who had come from other nations returned home. Diehards, though, fled to the inaccessible mountain regions on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Pakistan has a large Pashtun population in that area, so there was a natural affinity based on tribal identity, and some regions, most notably Waziristan, ...

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5. Just Another Day in Afghanistan

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pp. 87-94

Usually, the major battles get all the attention. But for the average soldier, sailor, airman, or marine any day can bring moments where one is walking the narrow line between life and death. Politicians and the media may not call it war, but for the guy getting shot at it sure feels like war. This has been the case with Afghanistan since the major combat ended; ...

Part 2—Iraq

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6. A Controversial Invasion in a Context of Controversy

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pp. 97-128

From the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, even before the fall of the last Taliban strongholds, some in political and media circles had been advocating a decisive resolution to the lingering problem with Saddam Hussein, and the Bush administration wasted little time after bringing down the Taliban regime before turning its attention to Iraq. ...

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7. “Our Business Now Is North”

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pp. 129-152

While the planning was going on at the various headquarters around the theater, other preparations were going on that, while very different in nature, were just as critical. Anytime military units deploy there is a certain level of organizational chaos, so once troops arrive at the new location the first order of business is to get the unit— ...

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8. A Tale of Two Bridges

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pp. 153-169

The assertion that 3-69’s seizure of the bridge at Kifl “shouldn’t be a big deal” turned out to be overly optimistic. After running into unexpectedly fierce resistance in An Nasiriyah and As Samawah, especially from the Fedayeen, 3rd ID decided to isolate An Najaf from outside reinforcement and resupply. ...

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9. Through the Gap, across the Bridge, and on to Baghdad

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pp. 170-187

With An Najaf isolated, 3rd Infantry Division now controlled the city’s outlying areas, which greatly facilitated capturing the city itself. Getting this far seemed, on the one hand, breathtaking in its speed and remarkably low U.S. casualties. But there had been some nasty surprises along the way—especially the Fedayeen ...

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10. The Thunder Runs

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pp. 188-209

With the newly renamed Baghdad airport in American hands, 2nd Brigade securely entrenched at Objective Saints, and the Medina Division and other forces south of Baghdad largely destroyed, 3rd ID was now poised to begin the assault on Baghdad. News of U.S. forces deep in Iraq and across the Euphrates had flashed around the world ...

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11. The Scud Hunt and Operations in Western Iraq

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pp. 210-222

One of the most chilling memories from Desert Storm was the fear evoked by Hussein’s use of theater ballistic missiles, or Scuds, against urban targets throughout the Middle East. These missiles could be used to carry chemical or biological agents, and since Saddam had gassed his own people, no one doubted he was capable of using Scuds to launch such an attack against his enemies. ...

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12. The Drive from the North

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pp. 223-234

From the first serious thoughts of taking out Saddam Hussein, the United States had big plans for its long-standing ally Turkey. Turkey not only shared a common northern border with Iraq but had also been the staging base for Operation Northern Watch, the UN-sanctioned effort to protect northern Iraq’s Kurdish population. ...

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pp. 235-238

When John Knipe headed home, it wasn’t for long. In fact, for most members of the TACP community, as for everyone else in the modern U.S. military—whether active duty, Guard, or reserve—today’s reality is frequent deployments to either Afghanistan or Iraq. ...

Appendix: People Interviewed

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pp. 239-240


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pp. 241-246


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pp. 247-250

Back Cover

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p. 274-274

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443043
E-ISBN-10: 1603443045
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441421

Page Count: 250
Illustrations: 12 b&w photos., 4 maps.
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: None