FROM THE TOPPLING of the Taliban in the fall of 2001, to the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the freeing of the captain of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates, and of course the Osama bin Laden raid, an extraordinarily high percentage of the most celebrated feats of American arms in the past decade were the work of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and in particular of its most secretive component, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which is home to the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team Six, and other "Tier One" units. So, too, some of the most bitter losses in recent wars have been suffered by these same forces—such as the shoot-down of a Chinook transport helicopter in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011, which killed thirty Americans, including seventeen SEALs. It was the greatest single-day loss of American lives during the entire war.
Since September 11 JSOC has become a finely honed man-hunting machine whose "operators" take down two thousand or more targets every year, with an 84 percent probability that they will get their man (or a close associate) each time—and usually with little resistance, so adept are they at using the element of stealth. (The Chinook disaster occurred because for once the Taliban knew the SEALs were coming—they were responding to a call for help from Army Rangers engaged in a firefight.) The bin Laden raid, the subject of this best-selling memoir by one of the SEAL "assaulters," a forthcoming book by journalist Mark Bowden, and a soon-to-be-released movie, was unusual only in that it occurred in Pakistan and involved the highest of all "high value targets," but the same tactics, techniques, and procedures have been employed to capture or to kill thousands of other terrorist leaders over the past decade.