BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Ken Stiles, now a lecturer at Virginia Tech, was in the CIA during the September 11th, 2001 attacks.
Stiles was tasked with using advanced computer technology in the war that followed to protect Americans and their allies and to target and kill Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, Stiles was attending an off-site CIA conference.
“And one of the speakers came in and said she’d heard on the radio that a plane had hit one of the Towers in New York. So, of course, we got a TV, turned it on and about that time is when the second plane hit. The group chief said, ‘Okay, Conference is over’,” remembered Stiles.
Stiles, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist, figured his role would change; he didn’t know how much.
“There are moments in your professional life that you will always remember. Mine was Monday morning, October 1st at 10 a.m.,” Stiles said in regards to a phone call he received that morning, asking for assistance in a fast-paced military operation.
A group from the Counter Terrorism Center was headed to Afghanistan and needed to know what was going on around them, who to attack, who not to attack, and where.
Stiles explained how his GIS expertise could help and was soon on a plane, headed to a war zone.
“I wanted to go to Afghanistan. And if I could have the targeting system on the laptop, I could take it in country and work with our teams,” said Stiles.
He says that he and his GIS team worked very well with the military, protecting Americans and friendly Afghans. His information also helped to give the go-ahead to devastating attacks against the enemy.
“He gave me the coordinates. I plugged them into the laptop I had. He said, ‘Do you have anybody near there?’ I said, ‘Dan, we don’t have anybody within a hundred clicks.’ And the general said, ‘Take ’em out’,” explained Stiles. “So in real time, we were providing bombing support to the military, and they took out a huge convoy of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters that were retreating to Kabul.”
But it wasn’t enough. Twenty years later, the war is over and the Taliban has won.
Stiles added his personal opinion is that by spring of 2002, Al-Qaeda had been destroyed, it was “mission accomplished” — and U.S. service members should have come home.
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