Gary C. Schroen, a veteran C.I.A. operative who, simply weeks after the assaults of Sept. 11, 2001, led the primary staff of brokers into Afghanistan to organize for an invasion and start the search for Osama bin Laden and his best lieutenants, died at his house in Alexandria, Va., on Aug. 1, someday after an American missile killed probably the most ultimate of the ones males, Ayman al-Zawahri. He used to be 80.
His spouse, Anne McFadden, stated the reason used to be headaches of a fall.
Mr. Schroen spent greater than 30 years with the C.I.A., operating brokers and espionage operations around the Middle East. At 59, he used to be already 11 days into the company’s necessary three-month retirement transition program when terrorists underneath bin Laden’s command attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
He spent the following few days stewing, pissed off that the talents and information he had spent many years obtaining would pass unused in this day and age they have been most beneficial.
Then, past due at the night time of Sept. 13, he were given phrase that Cofer Black, the director of the company’s counterterrorist heart, sought after to peer him the following morning.
“Gary, I want you to take a small team of C.I.A. officers 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 War on Terror in Afghanistan,” and in more than one interviews. They have been to connect to the Northern Alliance, a company adversarial to the Taliban, and convince them to cooperate with the Americans.
“You are,” Mr. Black persisted, “the best-qualified officer to lead this team.”
Mr. Schroen decided on seven males and collected the guns, outside tools and meals they would want. The challenge used to be code-named Jawbreaker. At least one consultant from the army used to be intended to sign up for them, however the Pentagon pulled out of the challenge on the ultimate minute, mentioning it too unhealthy.
“There was no rescue force,” Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. case officer who labored often with Mr. Schroen, stated in a telephone interview. “If they got in trouble, there were no American troops to come rescue them.”
Before Mr. Schroen left for the challenge, Mr. Black took him apart.
“I want to make it clear what your real job is,” Mr. Schroen recalled Mr. Black telling him. “Once the Taliban are broken, your job is to find bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back on dry ice.”
They were given to Afghanistan on Sept. 26, wearing laptops, satellite tv for pc telephones, immediate espresso and $3 million in money. For the following a number of weeks, till detachments from the Army’s Delta Force started to reach, they have been the one Americans 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 allotted cash freely to turn the seriousness of the approaching American attack.
Within days, he had received over the Northern Alliance. By the time extra American troops started to reach, the bottom used to be starting to shift towards the Taliban.
In a commentary after Mr. Schroen’s dying, William J. Burns, the director of the C.I.A., referred to as him “a legend and inspiration to every Agency officer.”
Gary Charles Schroen used to be born on Nov. 6, 1941, in East St. Louis, Ill. His father, Emil, used to be a union electrician, and his mom, Fern (Finch) Schroen, used to be a homemaker.
Mr. Schroen used to be married and divorced two times sooner than marrying Ms. McFadden in 2009. In addition to 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 Army Security Agency, an intelligence unit, for 3 years. He later attended Southern Illinois University 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 complete occupation within the Directorate of Operations, shuffling between assignments within the Middle East and at C.I.A. headquarters in Virginia.
He later described, on the whole phrases, the fun of running in covert operations throughout the Cold War — and, in explicit phrases, the wave of detrimental exposure that adopted revelations within the mid-Seventies in regards to the C.I.A.’s position in assassinations, coups and different nefarious deeds over the many years.
“I spent two weeks just reading files on the Middle East historical stuff, looking for bad things that had happened,” he stated in an interview with the PBS program “Frontline” in 2006. “We all came away really shaken by just this feeling that a lot of people looked at us as a rogue organization.”
By the past due Eighties, Mr. Schroen had risen to the highest ranks of the company’s Middle East operations. He served as station leader for Kabul, even though for safety causes he needed to determine of Pakistan. Although he used to be steadily warned to not, he crossed steadily into Afghanistan to satisfy with mujahedeen rebels, at one level coming underneath fireplace from antagonistic forces.
He spoke fluent Persian and Dari, a dialect of Persian spoken in Afghanistan, and used to be broadly thought to be the company’s main skilled at the nation — “one of the go-to guys for the region,” Milton Bearden, who served as C.I.A. station leader in Pakistan, stated 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. Concern about bin Laden and Al Qaeda used to be rising, and it grew quicker after bin Laden orchestrated the assaults on two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.
Mr. Schroen used to be a few of the loudest voices throughout the company calling for the federal government to seize or, higher but, kill bin Laden as briefly as conceivable. Yet a cruise missile assault on his compound in Afghanistan overlooked him via an hour, and two different deliberate assaults have been referred to as off on the ultimate minute.
Mr. Schroen got here again to Washington in 1999 to change into the deputy leader for the Near East within the Directorate of Operations. He introduced his retirement in mid-2001, in a while sooner than being introduced again after Sept. 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 used to be a few of the maximum embellished figures in C.I.A. historical past.
Mr. Schroen persisted to advise the company as a contractor. He used to be one among 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 combat towards Al Qaeda.
“When I came back and heard that Iraq was being mentioned in the earliest moments after 9/11 as what we should attack, I thought, ‘Oh, my God. That can’t be true,’” he advised “Frontline.” “‘Clearly bin Laden and his guys are sitting in Afghanistan; that’s where we’ve got to go. Don’t mess with Iraq; this has nothing to do with them.’”