CIA Releases Photo Taken Just Before Its Operatives First Entered Afghanistan After 9/11

The image shows armed CIA operatives guarding $3M in cash that is stowed away inside a Russian-built Mi-17 helicopter.

byTyler Rogoway|
Afghanistan photo


The CIA has been publishing some very interesting information related to Operation Jawbreaker, its foray into Afghanistan just days after the 9/11 attacks, including a highly intriguing image showing its armed operatives inside a Mi-17 Hip helicopter, likely the same one that would ferry them and bags full of millions of dollars from Uzbekistan into Afghanistan. That act would be the first American operation in the Taliban-controlled failed state after 9/11 and would begin a war in that country that is ongoing still to this very day. 

The image shows the open rear of a Russian-built Mi-17 with heavily armed men sitting on ammunition cans in the back with just ropes tied around them to ensure they don't fall to their death if they slip out the back during flight. The mission depicted took place on September 19th, 2001, just eight days after the attacks on 9/11. The CIA says it was to pick up $3M in cash in three cardboard boxes. That money would be used to pay the Northern Alliance to spearhead the fight against the Taliban and to buy the allegiance of local warlords. 

One man is seen holding an early version of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The other has a tricked-out M4 with an M203 grenade launcher, a Trijicon Reflex sight, and what looks like a Surefire M500 flashlight attached. An extra magazine is also seen attached to the one loaded into the weapon's magazine well. Both are also carrying sidearms. 

Beyond that, the two men are casually dressed and only the one with the M249 appears to be wearing body armor in the form of a vest from and wearing an American Body Armor. One is wearing a flight helmet, while the other is not, as well.

Also visible is a box of Nestle bottled water and a crew chief preparing the helicopter for flight. The cabin is packed full of other indiscernible items, but we do know that $3M in cash was part of its cargo manifest. Maybe the Nestle box was actually packed with greenbacks, which would make a lot of sense.

On September 26th, 2001, the modified Mi-17 "91101" would infiltrate at night into Northern Afghanistan and America's mission in that country would officially begin. You can read more about operation Jawbreaker and the historic helicopter that was used in it—which now resides in the CIA's museum—in this past article of ours.

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