In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks Navy SEALs quickly dispatched to Camp Doha and those already aboard US Naval vessels in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters began conducting VBSS operations against ships suspected of having ties to or even carrying al Qaeda operatives. SEAL Teams 3 and 8 also began rotating into Oman from the United States and staging on the island of Masirah for operations in Afghanistan. One of the SEAL’s immediate concerns was a lack of adequate organic land mobility platforms to conduct Special reconnaissance (SR) missions in the rough, landlocked terrain of Afghanistan. After borrowing and retrofitting Humvees from the Army Rangers also staging on Masirah the SEALs inserted into Afghanistan to conduct the SR of what would become Camp Rhino as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). These early stages of OEF were commanded by a fellow SEAL, Rear Admiral Albert Calland.
The SR mission in the region of Camp Rhino lasted for four days after which two United States Air Force Combat Control Teams made a night time HALO jump to assist the SEALs in guiding in Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit who seized control of the area and established a Forward operating base. While at Camp Rhino the CIA passed on intelligence from a Predator drone operating in the Paktia province that Taliban Mullah Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa was spotted leaving a building by vehicle convoy. SEALs and Danish Jægerkorpset commandos boarded Air Force Pave Low helicopters and seized Khairkha on the road less than two hours later. The SEALs continued to perform reconnaissance operations for the Marines until leaving after having spent 45 days on the ground.
Subsequent SEAL operations during the invasion of Afghanistan were conducted within Task Force K-Bar a joint special operations unit of Army Special Forces, United States Air Force Special Tactics Teams and special operations forces from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey under the command of Navy SEAL Captain Robert Harward. Task Force K-Bar conducted combat operations in the massive cave complexes at Zhawar Kili, the city of Kandahar and surrounding territory, the town of Prata Ghar and hundreds of miles of rough terrain in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Over the course of six months Task Force K-Bar killed or captured over 200 hundred Taliban and al Qaeda fighters and destroyed tens of thousand of pounds of weapons and ordinance.
Navy SEALs participated extensively in Operation Anaconda but not without controversy. SEAL recon teams were already in place when the Special Forces commander on the ground was informed that two SEAL Teams would be added into the battle. Lt Cmdr Vic Hyder made the decision to insert several SEALs onto a mountain top with a day light helicopter insertion despite warnings from Special Forces personnel on the ground that the mountain top was not a safe daytime LZ. During the insertion AB-1 Neil Roberts fell from his helicopter when it took fire from entrenched al Qaeda fighters. Roberts was eventually killed after engaging and fighting dozens of enemies for almost an hour. Several SEALs were wounded in a rescue attempt and their Air Force Combat Controller, Technical Sergeant John Chapman was killed. Attempts to rescue the stranded SEAL also lead to the deaths of several US Army Rangers and an Air Force Pararescueman acting as a Quick Reaction Force.
SEALs were present at the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi alongside their counterparts from the British Special Boat Service. Chief Petty Officer Stephen Bass was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle.
Counter insurgency and counter terrorism
In 2005, the Navy Seals took part in Operation Red Wing, in which eleven Navy SEALs (five from SDVT 1, one from SDVT 2 and five from SEAL Team 10) and eight soldiers from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment died in what was, at the time, the largest single loss of American life in the War in Afganistan (2001-). Navy SEAL Lt Michael P. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle.