In the days following September 11, 2001, while the rest of the United States was still reeling from the shock of the attacks that left thousands killed, the country’s intelligence and special operations apparatuses were already planning a counter-assault on Afghanistan, where the planners of the 9/11 attacks were said to be hiding.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Center, then known as the Special Activities Division, quickly stood up a team of seven operatives from its paramilitary unit, known as the Special Operations Group.
Designated “JAWBREAKER," this team composed of prior-service special ops warfighters, CIA officers, and intelligence experts, were to covertly insert into Afghanistan via a CIA-flown Mil Mi-17 Hip helicopter, link up with local militias and pave the way for the Army’s Special Forces units to enter the country and begin destroying the Taliban’s iron rule while routing Al Qaeda in the process.
As part of its 9/11 commemorations, the CIA’s official Twitter account posted a series of images from just days before it launched its operation into Afghanistan, including a rarely-seen picture of some of its SOG operatives — in this particular case, picking up $3 million in non-sequential $100 bills for use during the JAWBREAKER mission.
The SOG operative on the right wearing the aircrew helmet is carrying an M4 carbine decked out with what appears to be a Trijicon RX01M4A1 reflex sight mounted on the top rail, an M203 40mm grenade launcher, and a Surefire M500 weapon light.
On the left of the image is a SOG commando with an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a metal skeleton stock, wearing ABA soft armor under a tactical vest. Both operatives are wearing drop-leg holsters, though their sidearms are neither visible nor distinguishable.
Additionally, both operatives are apparently tied to the Mi-17 by way of climbing ropes instead of the traditional “monkey tail" harness aircrew generally use to keep from falling out of open doors while in flight.
While the two spooks pictured wield American weaponry, the team that was finally inserted into Afghanistan would opt for a different loadout.
According to Gary Schroen, the CIA paramilitary officer who led JAWBREAKER, in his book First In, the covert unit was equipped with AK-style rifles. Author Leigh Neville would later go into detail on the kit in his book Special Forces in the War on Terror, clarifying that the seven members of the team carried “sterile” AKMs and Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistols with their serials scrubbed.
This would make considerable sense as the 7.62 Soviet cartridges fielded by the AKM were far more easily accessible in-country than NATO-standard rounds like 5.56x45mm, and the team could function without making heavy use of resupply missions for ammunition.
Along with the cash and weaponry were Thales AN/PRC-148 Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radios, simply known as MBITRs — still in use today with the US military — as well as satellite communications gear which allowed them to relay data and intelligence back to military and CIA units in real-time.