Ken Stiles spent 29 years with the CIA before joining the faculty at Virginia Tech.  To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America, Stiles and four others who were on the ground immediately following the attacks will share their experiences at a panel discussion and examine aspects of the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan and their roles in this unprecedented counter terrorism action.

At the time of the attacks, Stiles was a GIS (geographic information system) analyst for the CIA.  The officer in charge of the operation against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan called on Stiles to create a high-tech mapping system which allowed him to see in real time what was happening in the country.  

“They needed a map in order to understand what was happening in Afghanistan with our CIA teams, our Afghan ‘assets’ – the Afghan nationals spying on Al Qaeda and the Taliban – the U.S. military bombing effort, and where the enemy was located,” said Stiles. “I went to Afghanistan and provided targeting support for major operations that our CIA teams or the U.S. Special Forces were undertaking.”

“We provided intelligence support and massive air power for this fight.  The Taliban was defeated by December 2001 and Al Qaeda was destroyed by spring 2002,” he said.  “Mission accomplished. That’s when we should have left, but policy makers who didn’t understand Afghanistan, the culture, its history, the many different tribes, decided to ‘create’ a nation where none had ever existed.  That was the mistake.”

Quoting Stiles

“When the U.S. is pushed, we respond superbly – the CIA especially.  Within ten days of the attack the first CIA team was in Afghanistan beginning the fight.  We accomplished our objectives with less than 300 CIA and military personnel on the ground.”

“War is personal, very personal.  I lost three good friends in Afghanistan in the first year, and a fourth elsewhere in the world in our war against Al Qaeda.  Our young people pay the price for our older politicians’ mistakes.”

“Stay vigilant and bold and ruthless.  The U.S. had been at war with Al Qaeda long before September 2001 and the war continues even though the last soldier left Kabul airport on August 30, 2021.”

To Attend

The panel discussion will take place on Sept. 9, at 3:30 p.m. in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech in the Burruss Hall auditorium and is free and open to the public. Visit the webpage to learn more and register.

Schedule an interview

To arrange an interview with Ken Stiles, contact Bill Foy at or 540-998-0288; Shannon Andrea at or 703-399-9494.  You may also email our team at 

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