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Members of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—the nation’s “top counterterrorism unit”—are away from America when it comes under terrorist attack, participating in a training exercise in Hungary. (Naylor 2015, pp. ix-x; Stein 9/11/2015) The highly classified exercise, called Jackal Cave, is one of several joint readiness exercises that JSOC conducts each year. It is part of a larger exercise, called Ellipse Bravo, run by the US military’s European Command (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Arkin 2005, pp. 358-359; Naylor 2015, pp. ix) Jackal Cave involves participants tracking down a hypothetical hybrid force made up of terrorists and elements of international organized crime who are trafficking in weapons of mass destruction. “We were tracking ‘terrorists,’” a JSOC staff officer will later comment. “[A]nd then [we’d] bring an assault element in to take the target down.” Details of the mock terrorists in the exercise are unclear, but they are not Islamists, according to journalist and author Sean Naylor. (Naylor 2015, pp. x, 441)
JSOC and Delta Force Are Participating in the Exercise - Jackal Cave involves over 500 personnel, 62 aircraft, and 420 tons of cargo. (Arkin 2005, pp. 404) Hundreds of JSOC personnel are taking part. (Naylor 2015, pp. 85) JSOC, based at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, is responsible for conducting the US military’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions. (Risen and Schmitt 9/3/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org) 6/24/2013) Its headquarters for the exercise is divided between Taszár Air Base, about 120 miles southwest of Budapest, Hungary, and Tuzla, Bosnia. A squadron from the US Army’s Delta Force is also participating in the exercise. (Fury 2008, pp. 56; Post 9/10/2011; Naylor 2015, pp. x) Delta Force is designed to be an overseas counterterrorist unit and specializes in hostage rescue, barricade operations, and reconnaissance. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 6/24/2013) Its personnel are trained in dealing with terrorist situations in buildings and hijacked aircraft, among other things. (Trinidad 12/1/2001; Haney 2002, pp. 213; Schading and Schading 2006, pp. 156)
Mock Terrorists Are Played by US Military Personnel - Others taking part in Jackal Cave include members of the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (see (September 10-15, 2001)), and some Hungarian military elements. (Richelson 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson 1/23/2009; Naylor 2015, pp. x) The terrorists in the exercise are being played by operatives from the Defense HUMINT Service—the US Defense Department’s clandestine spy network. Members of the US Navy’s SEAL Team Six are also taking part and are in the port of Dubrovnik, Croatia, from where the hypothetical enemy is trying to ship nuclear material out on a boat. The SEALs are going to be flown by helicopter to assault the boat in the Mediterranean Ocean.
JSOC Commander Learns of the Attacks in the US and Cancels the Exercise - At the time the attacks on the World Trade Center take place, Jackal Cave has barely started. One or two Delta Force staffers and some operatives with the Operational Support Troop—Delta Force’s in-house intelligence arm—are out tracking the mock terrorists through downtown Budapest. Meanwhile, Major General Dell Dailey, head of JSOC, is at the US embassy in Budapest, where he has been briefing senior officials on the exercise. He learns about the attacks on the WTC after leaving the briefing with his senior enlisted adviser, Army Command Sergeant Major Mike Hall. Major Jim Reese, a Delta Force officer, sees the coverage of the burning Twin Towers on television and then runs after the two men. He tells Dailey, “Hey sir, you need to see this.” Dailey quickly walks to his operations center at the embassy and sees the coverage of the attacks on TV. He then answers a phone call from his boss, Air Force General Charles Holland, head of US Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Holland tells him to abandon the exercise and return to the US as quickly as possible. After hanging up, Dailey turns to Reese and Lieutenant Colonel Scott Miller, another Delta Force officer, and says he is canceling the exercise immediately and returning to the US, and they should get back to the US too. However, as America’s airspace is closed to international commercial flights for several days following today’s attacks, it will take almost a week for the JSOC personnel who are in Europe for the exercise to return to America. (Naylor 2015, pp. ix-xiii, 85)
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