Gary C. Schroen, a veteran C.I.A. operative who, simply weeks after the assaults of 9-11, 2001, led the primary crew of brokers into Afghanistan to organize for an invasion and start the search for Osama bin Encumbered and his best lieutenants, died at his house in Alexandria, Va., on Aug. 1, in the future after an American missile killed probably the most remaining of the ones males, Ayman al-Zawahri. He was once 80.
His spouse, Anne McFadden, mentioned the purpose was once headaches of a fall.
Mr. Schroen spent greater than 30 years with the C.I.A., operating brokers and espionage operations around the Heart East. At 59, he was once already 11 days into the company’s obligatory three-month retirement transition program when terrorists underneath bin Encumbered’s command attacked the Global Industry Heart and the Pentagon.
He spent the following few days stewing, annoyed that the talents and data he had spent many years obtaining would cross unused nowadays they have been Most worthy.
Then, past due at the evening of Sept. 13, he were given phrase that Cofer Black, the director of the company’s counterterrorist middle, sought after to look him the following morning.
“Gary, I would like you to take a small crew of C.I.A. officials into Afghanistan,” Mr. Black advised him, in a dialog that Mr. Schroen recalled in a 2005 guide, “First In: An Insider’s Account of How the C.I.A. Spearheaded the Warfare on Terror in Afghanistan,” and in a couple of interviews. They have been to connect to the Northern Alliance, a company antagonistic to the Taliban, and convince them to cooperate with the American citizens.
“You’re,” Mr. Black endured, “the best-qualified officer to steer this crew.”
Mr. Schroen decided on seven males and accumulated the guns, outside tools and meals they would want. The undertaking was once code-named Jawbreaker. A minimum of one consultant from the army was once meant to enroll in them, however the Pentagon pulled out of the undertaking on the remaining minute, mentioning it too unhealthy.
“There was once no rescue drive,” Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. case officer who labored continuously with Mr. Schroen, mentioned in a telephone interview. “In the event that they were given in bother, there have been no American troops to come back rescue them.”
Prior to Mr. Schroen left for the undertaking, Mr. Black took him apart.
“I need to make it transparent what your actual activity is,” Mr. Schroen recalled Mr. Black telling him. “As soon as the Taliban are damaged, your activity is to search out bin Encumbered, kill him and convey his head again on dry ice.”
They were given to Afghanistan on Sept. 26, sporting laptops, satellite tv for pc telephones, immediate espresso and $3 million in money. For the following a number of weeks, till detachments from the Military’s Delta Pressure started to reach, they have been the one American citizens working within the nation.
Mr. Schroen had longstanding non-public ties with the Northern Alliance, going again to his time because the C.I.A. station leader in Islamabad, Pakistan. He dispensed cash freely to turn the seriousness of the approaching American attack.
Inside of days, he had received over the Northern Alliance. By the point extra American troops started to reach, the bottom was once starting to shift towards the Taliban.
In a remark after Mr. Schroen’s loss of life, William J. Burns, the director of the C.I.A., referred to as him “a legend and inspiration to each Company officer.”
Gary Charles Schroen was once born on Nov. 6, 1941, in East St. Louis, Sick. His father, Emil, was once a union electrician, and his mom, Fern (Finch) Schroen, was once a homemaker.
Mr. Schroen was once married and divorced two times prior to marrying Ms. McFadden in 2009. Along with her, he’s survived via his daughters, Kate Cowell and Jennifer Schroen. His son, Christopher, died in 2017. His sister, Donna Naylor, died in 2020.
Mr. Schroen joined the army after highschool and served with the Military Safety Company, an intelligence unit, for 3 years. He later attended Southern Illinois College Edwardsville, within the St. Louis suburbs, the place he studied English, and the place the C.I.A. first approached him. He graduated in 1968 and was a case officer a 12 months later.
He spent his whole occupation within the Directorate of Operations, shuffling between assignments within the Heart East and at C.I.A. headquarters in Virginia.
He later described, usually phrases, the fun of operating in covert operations right through the Chilly Warfare — and, in particular phrases, the wave of adverse exposure that adopted revelations within the mid-Nineteen Seventies concerning the C.I.A.’s function in assassinations, coups and different nefarious deeds over the many years.
“I spent two weeks simply studying recordsdata at the Heart East ancient stuff, on the lookout for dangerous issues that had took place,” he mentioned in an interview with the PBS program “Frontline” in 2006. “All of us got here away truly shaken via simply this sense that a large number of folks checked out us as a rogue group.”
By way of the past due Nineteen Eighties, Mr. Schroen had risen to the highest ranks of the company’s Heart East operations. He served as station leader for Kabul, although for safety causes he needed to determine of Pakistan. Despite the fact that he was once ceaselessly warned to not, he crossed often into Afghanistan to fulfill with mujahedeen rebels, at one level coming underneath fireplace from adversarial forces.
He spoke fluent Persian and Dari, a dialect of Persian spoken in Afghanistan, and was once broadly thought to be the company’s main knowledgeable at the nation — “probably the most go-to guys for the area,” Milton Bearden, who served as C.I.A. station leader in Pakistan, mentioned in an interview.
Mr. Schroen returned to the area within the mid-Nineties because the station leader in Islamabad, thought to be probably the most company’s maximum essential postings. Worry about bin Encumbered and Al Qaeda was once rising, and it grew sooner after bin Encumbered orchestrated the assaults on two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.
Mr. Schroen was once a few of the loudest voices inside the company calling for the federal government to seize or, higher but, kill bin Encumbered as briefly as imaginable. But a cruise missile assault on his compound in Afghanistan neglected him via an hour, and two different deliberate assaults have been referred to as off on the remaining minute.
Mr. Schroen got here again to Washington in 1999 to turn into the deputy leader for the Close to East within the Directorate of Operations. He introduced his retirement in mid-2001, in a while prior to being introduced again after 9-11.
He remained in Afghanistan for a couple of weeks after the American invasion started in earnest, in mid-October. He restarted his retirement procedure and officially left the company on the finish of the 12 months.
At his retirement, he was once a few of the maximum embellished figures in C.I.A. historical past.
Mr. Schroen endured to advise the company as a contractor. He was once one in every of a handful of former C.I.A. officers to brazenly criticize the verdict to invade Iraq, which he felt detracted consideration and sources from the struggle towards Al Qaeda.
“After I got here again and heard that Iraq was once being discussed within the earliest moments after 9/11 as what we must assault, I believed, ‘Oh, my God. That may’t be true,’” he advised “Frontline.” “‘Obviously bin Encumbered and his guys are sitting in Afghanistan; that’s the place we’ve were given to move. Don’t mess with Iraq; this has not anything to do with them.’”