Spann, a CIA operations officer with Alpha Team, was the first American killed inside Afghanistan after 9/11, during the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi, a prisoner uprising at the ancient fortress where American Taliban John Walker Lindh was held and interrogated by Spann.
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the death of Johnny Micheal (“Mike”) Spann, the CIA operations officer with Alpha Team who was the first American killed inside Afghanistan after 9/11. Spann was killed during the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi, a prisoner uprising at the ancient fortress where John Walker Lindh (the “American Taliban”) was held and interrogated by Spann.The story of the heroism of Spann and the American special operations teams that led to the overthrow of the Taliban is not diminished by the Joe Biden’s disastrous and botched final withdrawal of American troops.
Each year we tell the story of Spann on this date. You can scroll through the Johnny “Mike” Spann tag. Every year there is some new information that comes out, and this year is no exception.
Toby Harnden, who wrote the definitive account, First Casualty, has a long Twitter thread today recounting Spann’s efforts and the firefight in which he died:
THREAD: Remembering Mike Spann today, the 21st anniversary of his death during Al-Qaeda prisoner uprising at Qala-i Jangi near Mazar-i Sharif. CIA officer, Marine, husband, father. He went down fighting, engaging the enemy at close quarters with his Kalashnikov & Glock 17. 1/14 pic.twitter.com/h1LjMv6ybX
— Toby Harnden (@tobyharnden) November 25, 2022
Mike shot 2 or 3 of them with his Kalashnikov before the Qatari & others close to the Pink House jumped on him from behind, pushing him to the ground. Mike managed to pull out his Glock pistol & fire 1 or 2 shots b4 he was overwhelmed. (Pic shows Mike’s AKMS in CIA Museum) 10/14 pic.twitter.com/9YXGCyo7jy
— Toby Harnden (@tobyharnden) November 25, 2022
On November 27, 2021, just after our 2021write-up, Spann’s son Jake [image] wrote, From my dad’s death in Afghanistan 20 years ago to Taliban retaking the country. How did we get here?
On Nov. 25, 2001, I was an infant when a group of Marines came to my family’s house in Manassas, Virginia, to inform us that my father, Johnny “Mike” Spann, wasn’t coming home. He had been killed in battle at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress in Afghanistan.
My dad was one of the first intelligence officers sent to Afghanistan after 9/11. His death would be world news in less than 24 hours. Photos of my father and pictures of my mourning mother holding me would be in every newspaper in America….
The experience of missing a person you’ve never known is like missing a ghost. I remember looking for him in the crowd when I graduated high school. All I’ve ever wanted to hear is my father telling me that he’s proud.
Thoughts of my dad and Afghanistan occur more often in the fall, between September and November, especially on Nov. 25. This year, my family and I watched in anger as that nation fell to the Taliban….
So how did we get to where we are today? I learned that we truly lost the moment the mission changed. Dave Tyson [who fought alongside Mike Spann] was able to explain to me what went wrong in Afghanistan.
When the objective changed from crushing terrorism to trying to “democratize” Afghanistan, that’s when things began to fall apart, according to Dave. “The objective changed to attempting to democratize Afghanistan. Too much, too fast. The U.S. wanted to fundamentally change the country instead of staying with our original mission, which was making Afghanistan a place where terrorist attacks could not originate against the United States.”
On August 29, 2022, Spann’s daughter, Alison, was interviewed in August 2022, Daughter of first American killed in Afghanistan: Mike Spann’s legacy is greater than a ‘headline on the news’
“I think my dad has received a lot of attention solely because he was the first American killed after 9/11 and for me, I will never know Mike Spann as an adult, I am always going to know him from the lens of a 9-year-old kid,” Alison Spann told Fox News Digital in an interview….
Spann, who now works as a news anchor and reporter for WLOX in Mississippi, says it is “heartbreaking” to see what life is reverting back to in Afghanistan one year after the Taliban reclaimed power.
“I think today it still feels surreal that that’s how things ended in Afghanistan. I certainly never thought at 9 when I lost my dad over there that we would still be in this war by the time I was 30, but to see it end in such chaos was really heartbreaking,” she told Fox News Digital.
“There are allies still over there in Afghanistan… these are people that risked their lives and the safety of their families’ lives to assist us in our time of need while we were over there working in Afghanistan,” Spann said. “And it’s really heartbreaking to see that we have essentially abandoned them. I can’t imagine what that makes us look like on the world stage.”
NBC News reported on November 11, 2022, that Spann’s widow, Shannon, has joined with Spann’s Alpha Team member David Tyson, to help Afghans who helped them:
The desperate pleas come flooding into David Tyson’s cellphone, from a country that has fallen off the American radar.
The texts are from Afghans who fought alongside him and his colleagues, and they are asking for help to flee Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
The messages often include graphic videos: whippings, torture, the stoning of women, even executions, Tyson said.
Tyson was among the first Americans to fly into Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, as part of a CIA unit dropped into Taliban-controlled territory five weeks after the attacks. Team Alpha fought the first major battle of the U.S. war in Afghanistan at a fort in northern Afghanistan, and Tyson’s teammate, Johnny “Mike” Spann, was the first American killed in combat in the conflict.
To honor his fallen colleague and his former Afghan partners, Tyson and Spann’s widow, Shannon, have joined forces to try to help evacuate Afghans who once served with Spann and other CIA officers on the battlefield more than 20 years ago.
Over the last year, Tyson has been fielding calls and texts nearly every day from the Afghans who are still trying to get out — former commanders who fought with Team Alpha in 2001 and their families….
Tyson, Shannon Spann and others associated with Team Alpha have formed a nonprofit called Badger Six, named after Mike Spann’s radio callsign. The group, funded by private donations, says it has managed to get about 300 Afghans out by air and over land to neighboring countries, using safe houses, wire transfers and a network of contacts. Many of them are relatives of former Afghan Northern Alliance commanders who rode on horseback with Team Alpha and U.S. special forces in the opening days of the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
On September 11th, 2001, four simultaneous terrorist attacks kill nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Half a world away, Usama bin Ladin and his al-Qaida terrorists celebrate in Afghanistan, their presumed safe haven under the protection of the Taliban regime.
Fifteen days later, a CIA Mi-17 helicopter—tail number 091101—slips into Afghanistan and lands in the Panjshir Valley, the last outpost of anti-Taliban resistance….
Three weeks later, CIA’s Team Alpha becomes the first US force to be inserted behind enemy lines. The team consists of four paramilitary officers, two operations officers, one medic and one Green Beret officer detailed to the CIA. Team member Mike Spann—call sign Badger Six—will become the first US causality of the War on Terror and the 79th star on the CIA Memorial Wall….
In 2002, Team Alpha’s deployment ended, but almost all of their partners went on to serve in the Afghan military, intelligence service, or police forces and continued to work closely with United States and coalition forces
When the U.S. left Afghanistan in 2021, these earliest allies were abandoned, some still fighting on the battlefield.
In the months that followed, those who did not get out of the country have been, along with their family members, hounded by the Taliban, and in some cases tortured and killed.
The threat to these Afghan heroes—our allies, our partners, our friends—remains critical today. But their story is not over.
BADGER SIX IS DETERMINED TO HELP THEM SURVIVE, REBUILD, AND THRIVE. WE NEED YOUR HELP.
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