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Extreme Measures, Page 2

Vince Flynn

  Unfortunately, just as al-Haq was about to start talking, an air force officer burst into the room and stopped the questioning. Nash was put on the phone with the Justice Department lawyers back in D.C. and warned that he had crossed the line. The incident set off a firestorm between the CIA, the White House, the Justice Department, and Senator Barbara Lonsdale, the chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee. While the lawyers argued, Nash began to look for a way to get around the wall rather than over it. That was when he put a call in to Mitch Rapp.

  Nash glanced at his wristwatch. It was a few minutes before midnight. Rapp and the cavalry were due to arrive any minute. The two sleeping thugs were in for a rude awakening. They’d been given three square meals a day, beds nicer than the cot Nash was sleeping on, prayer rugs, a fresh copy of the Koran, and hot showers. Their defiance had grown with each passing day as they realized they would not be subjected to torture. That false sense of security was about to vanish in a very real and possibly violent way.



  THE man walked slowly around the room, his hands clasped firmly behind his back. He observed the seven men seated at the rough-hewn plank table with growing concern. It had been six months since they’d left Pakistan, and still they weren’t ready. They were close, but that was not good enough. The slightest misstep could bring disaster, as it had brought to others who had gone before them.

  Karim Nour-al-Din thought back on their journey and all of the painstaking work he had put into forming his elite unit. They had traveled to Peshawar as a group, handed in their weapons, cut their hair, shaved their beards, and had photos taken for their new passports. A week later each man took possession of an expertly forged set of documents, two credit cards, and plane tickets. Some traveled through Africa, others the Orient and the Pacific Rim. Not one of them, however, traveled through Europe, Australia, or the United States. They were off-limits. Two weeks later they converged on one of the world’s most wicked and depraved cities.

  Karim had never been to Ciudad del Este, and it would not have been his first choice, but as soon as Ayman al-Zawahiri had suggested it, Karim knew that was where he was going. The number two man in al-Qaeda was rarely open to suggestions and never open to debate. Those who had been bold or foolish enough to argue with him were all gone. So when Zawahiri suggested the remote South American city, Karim simply nodded and reasoned he would make it work. He arrived in the city first, and after spending one day roaming its filthy streets, he decided he would have to risk Zawahiri’s wrath and move his men.

  Ciudad del Este was run by drug dealers, flesh merchants, gunrunners, and mobsters. Counterfeiting of currency as well as products was rampant. There were more gambling houses than houses of worship. Tax cheats, rapists, pedophiles, and murderers all ran to Ciudad del Este to evade the long arm of the law. Perfectly located in the Triple Frontier where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina came together, the city was a free-for-all. The competing authorities, the dense jungle, and the murky water of the Parana River combined to create a toxic stew of all things illicit.

  Zawahiri had even gone so far as to tell him that he would like Ciudad del Este. He said the city would remind him of Peshawar, the Pakistani city that was the main supply center in their struggle to expel the infidels from their lands. But the only things the two cities had in common were drugs, guns, and poor people. Other than that, they couldn’t have been more different. Peshawar was a city on a war footing. It was a city with many opinions and clans, but a unified purpose. It was a city on a religious mission.

  Ciudad del Este was a godless place. Chinese, Mexicans, Colombians, Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Eurotrash, Russian thugs, and every other sort of reprobate roamed its streets, each person caring only about himself. There was no larger purpose, no restraint whatsoever. The very lawlessness of the place was bound to attract the attention of the Americans.

  Karim reasoned the CIA would have little trouble penetrating the various factions. He imagined their intelligence assets crawling all over the city of nearly two hundred thousand. With their endless sums of cash and their technological advantage it would be easy for them to discover what was going on. He and his men would be photographed within the week, and within the month they would begin to disappear. Just like the other teams that had been dispatched. If the Americans, British, and French weren’t afraid to grab his fellow warriors off the streets of major European cities, what would stop them from doing it in this lawless place?

  Karim spent two days searching for a solution and then stumbled across something that he thought might work. He met a Lebanese arms dealer who had been implicated in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. After two years of living on the run, his name had finally been cleared, no doubt because large amounts of cash were given to the right people. Now, he was returning to his native Lebanon. The man had a remote parcel of land he was looking to unload. With a hushed tone and conspiratorial glance, he explained to Karim that it was the perfect place to get away from the city.

  The man was right. The 250-acre site had been cut out of the rain forest and was accessible only by helicopter or on foot. The closest road was almost ten miles away, but the trek through the rain forest made it feel more like a hundred miles. The site’s buildings consisted of nothing more than concrete slabs, corrugated metal roofs, and screens running along the perimeter. There was a diesel generator to run the lights. Considering his lack of options, Karim thought the place was perfect. He bought it all for $50,000 and had the money wired to the man’s account. His men, who had arrived by then, were transported to the camp and the training began in earnest.

  That had been nearly six months ago, and they had come a long way in a relatively short time. Karim looked down with satisfaction as the first man finished assembling his bomb. It was Farid, of course. He was always first. Three more men completed the task in quick order. Karim checked his watch. Not so long ago it took them almost an hour to assemble the bombs. The goal was ten minutes or less. They were at nine and counting. Two more men finished with seconds to spare, leaving Zachariah as the only one to fail.

  The lone Egyptian in the group set down his tools and looked up with a sheepish smile, “My uncle would be very disappointed.”

  A couple of the men chuckled. Karim did not. He found none of this amusing. They were scheduled to depart in a few days, and thanks to this idiot sitting before him, they were not ready. Karim had driven them without rest for nearly six months in an effort to hone them into elite warriors. He had succeeded with at least four of them. Two more were adequate, but he would have to keep a close eye on them. One was a total failure, and he was holding them back.

  Karim turned away from the group and looked through the rusty screen at the steady rain. He felt isolated. Everything was foreign about this place. It was too lush, too humid, and there were far too many bugs. The desert was a much better place to commune with Allah, and the high altitude of Afghanistan was a much, much better place to discuss tactics with the other leaders. He missed the counsel and advice of his equals. He was alone in the jungle, faced with an extremely difficult decision. He had to decide what to do about Zachariah, and he had to do it quickly.



  NASH heard them coming, as did the airman sitting at the duty desk. The young man from Arkansas checked the flat-screen monitor. A look of concern spread across his face. Nash knew he was looking at the video feed from the security camera mounted at the main door. Bagram Air Base was a busy place even at 12:21 in the morning, but most of the action was taking place over on the flight line. The Taliban liked to move at night, so the air force and army pilots were out hunting. Forwarding operating bases were being resupplied with bundle drops, Special Forces teams were loading up for insertions, and the wounded were coming in and going out. The base occupied some 840 acres and averaged more than four thousand personnel at any given time. It was a city unto its
elf, but even so, the building they were in was off the beaten path.

  The main internment facility sat near the middle of the base, nearly a half mile away. The Hilton, as they liked to call it, was fully automated, with surveillance devices built into each of the eight cells and two interrogation rooms. All cell doors, as well as the main steel door that led to the cells, had to be remotely opened from the control shack. There were only two ways in and out, and both required the proper ID card and pass code. Nash had given Rapp both in advance.

  Nash casually strolled over to the desk and asked, “What’s up, Seth?”

  The nineteen-year-old looked anxious. “It looks like we’ve got some unexpected guests.”

  “Who is it?” Nash asked, knowing damn well who it was.

  “I don’t know.”

  There was a metallic clicking noise as the locking mechanism on the main door was released. Footsteps could be heard, and then six men wearing olive-drab-and-tan Airman Battle Uniforms, or ABU’s, entered the room. Mitch Rapp led the group. He had a black eagle on each side of his collar, which meant he outranked the airman by a mile. As he approached the desk, the airman jumped to his feet and snapped off a salute. Rapp returned it and said, “As you were. Are you Airman First Class Seth Jackson?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “I’m Colonel Carville. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.” Rapp’s right hand shot out to the side. He snapped his fingers and the man behind him placed an envelope in his palm. Rapp retrieved the letter from the envelope and held it up so the young airman could read it. “This is from the secretary of the air force,” Rapp said in a commanding, clipped voice, “authorizing me to take temporary command of this interrogation facility. Do you have any questions, Jackson?”

  The young airman nervously shook his head from side to side. “No, sir.”

  “Good.” Rapp turned to Nash and eyeballed him from head to toe. Nash was wearing an olive-drab flight suit with no name or rank. “Who are you?”

  Nash grinned. “I’m afraid that’s on a need-to-know basis, Colonel.”

  “OGA,” Rapp said in disgust. The acronym stood for Other Government Agency, which was a euphemism for the CIA. “You goddamn spooks. You’re more trouble than you’re worth.” Rapp turned back to Jackson. “You’re on duty until oh seven hundred?”

  “That’s correct, sir.”

  “Follow me. You too,” he said to Nash. Rapp led them back through the doorway. There were offices on the left and the right. Rapp opened the door on the left and said to one of the men in his entourage, “Chief, remove the phone and keyboard from this office and make sure this spook doesn’t leave until I say so.”

  Rapp walked across the hall and opened the other door. Looking at the young airman, Rapp said, “Jackson, in here. I’m going to assume I can trust you to not make any phone calls…no e-mails…no communication at all. Is that understood?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Good. Grab some shut-eye on the couch, and don’t leave this room unless I say so. Is that clear?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  Rapp shut the door, walked back across the hall, and opened the other office door. Nash was standing on the other side with a big grin on his face. The two men shook hands and then walked back down the hallway past the control room and into a small cafeteria. Four of the five men who had entered with Rapp were waiting. Nash walked up to the oldest man in the group and extended his hand.

  “General Dostum, thank you for making the trip.”

  At five feet eight the general was four inches shorter than both Nash and Rapp. His most striking feature was the contrast between his black beard and close-cropped gray hair. The former Northern Alliance general slapped Nash’s hand away and gave him a big hug. He laughed and in heavily accented English said, “I would do anything for you, Mike.”

  Nash had been the first American to meet with General Dostum after the assassination of Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. He paved the way for the arrival of warriors from the U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group and an eventual offensive that dislodged the Taliban from the north. Dostum may have been a ruthless warlord, and one of Afghanistan’s largest exporters of opium, but he was also very loyal to those who had helped him wrest his land from the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

  Nash regarded Dostum and said, “Even if it means getting you in trouble with the U.S. military?”

  “Your military has more important things to be concerning itself with. It would be wise for them to turn all prisoners over to me.”

  “Wouldn’t that be nice?”

  Rapp looked at his watch and said, “General, we’re a little short on time. To be safe, we should be finished and out of here by oh six hundred. That leaves us about five and a half hours.” Rapp turned his attention to Nash. “You want to cover anything before we get started?”

  Nash had put a lot of thought into the best way to utilize their time. He had decided that he and Dostum would handle al-Haq, while Rapp would be in charge of interrogating Haggani. They’d already gone over their strategy, but with Rapp involved, Nash felt one thing bore repeating. “Remember, no marks.”

  “How do you expect me to get him to talk?” Rapp complained.

  “Be creative.”

  “I can’t just shoot him in the knees?”

  General Dostum nodded enthusiastically at the idea. The two of them made Nash very nervous. “Guys, we can’t leave any marks.”

  Rapp smiled. “Don’t worry, I brought along something special.” Rapp looked across the room and said, “Marcus, did you bring the rats?”



  KARIM had fought against the Americans in Afghanistan and seen firsthand the effects of their training. His fellow jihadists liked to claim that the Americans’ impressive kill ratio was due solely to the fact that they controlled the skies, but Karim knew otherwise. He had come up against their hunter-killer teams: autonomous deep-penetration units that wreaked havoc behind enemy lines. Karim had been in the region only a month when they received a report from the locals that a single American helicopter had dropped off seven men on a nearby peak.

  Shortly after midnight Karim’s commander ordered a full assault on the position. Nearly two hundred men participated in the attack. Two platoons of roughly thirty men apiece started up the mountain, while the rest of the men were held in reserve. The first group attacked from the east and the second from the west. The lead elements of both groups made it to within ten meters of the peak, and then everything went wrong. From their elevated and fortified position the Americans sprung their trap. A total of five men made it back down the mountain without injury. The wounded were left to cry for help in the cold mountain air.

  The undisciplined commander immediately ordered a second attack and called for the mortar teams to open fire. They quickly learned the Americans had a sniper with them. All six men manning the three mortar tubes were killed within seconds of firing their first round. Another wave of sixty men headed up the mountain, this time firing as they went. Two hours later, a handful of men limped off the mountain, swearing a company of Rangers was dug in on the peak. The commander would hear none of it. He turned to Karim and ordered him to take his newly formed unit of thirty-eight Saudi freedom fighters and attack the position.

  Karim looked back on that night as a defining moment in his life. He understood the situation both tactically and psychologically. The commander was Taliban and had been in charge of the area prior to the American towers’ coming down. If word got out that he couldn’t dislodge seven Americans from his own backyard, he would be humiliated. The man would rather waste two hundred good men than face the public embarrassment.

  Standing in the mountains that night, Karim was overcome with an incredible sense of calm. He did not bother to argue with the commander. He knew if he refused the order he would be branded a coward and sent back to Saudi Arabia to live the rest of his life in humiliation. If he led his men
up the hill it was likely he would be killed along with many of his men. With his options limited, he decided on the most simple, straightforward solution there was. Karim pulled out his pistol, shot the commander in the head, and took charge. He sent runners for more men and artillery and had the wounded evacuated. In the half-light of dawn, just as the lone artillery piece was being moved into position, Karim heard the steady thumping of a helicopter fighting to stay aloft in the thin mountain air. As the noise grew he grabbed a pair of high-powered binoculars and focused on the peak. He watched in awe as seven men climbed into the belly of the American beast and disappeared over the other side of the ridge.

  After that lopsided engagement, Karim had thrown himself into studying the American Special Forces. What he quickly learned was that it was not simply better weapons and tactics that made them so effective, it was selection and training. Of the seven men now seated at the table, he had commanded five of them in Afghanistan, and had handpicked them for the operation. The other two were foisted on him by Zawahiri. The arrogant man had insisted they were two of his best. When Karim found out that Zachariah was Zawahiri’s nephew, things became more clear. The talentless hack had been sent along to keep an eye on things and report back to his uncle.

  The Egyptian was dragging the rest of the team down. He finished last in every exercise and because of him the success of the mission was now in jeopardy. Karim thought of the Americans and their training. The selection process for their elite units was grueling. Some of them, like the SEALs, had an eighty percent rate of attrition. Karim tried to remember the word they used. It had something to do with water. After a moment it came to him. They called it washing out. Karim liked the phrase—it had a religious undertone to it. Like washing away the impure or unworthy.