Without official approval from United States Congress or the CIA, William Rawlins initiated cover military operation in Afghanistan, codenamed Operation Cerberus. The operation was aimed to eliminate local terrorist groups, and with Ray Schoonover's assistance, Rawlins recruited multiple United States Armed Forces soldiers into the Cerberus Squad. Frank Castle, Billy Russo, Gunner Henderson, and all other soldiers were stationed in Kandahar, under Rawlins' command.
As the operation was unsanctioned and illegal, Rawlins and Schoonover organized drug traffic to fund their missions. Morty Bennett, who was tasked by Rawlins, personally managed the smuggling of Afghan heroin in the United States of America in the soldiers' dead bodies. Schoonover, using his criminal alter-ego "Blacksmith", controlled the sales of the heroin. However, the heroin traffic was discovered by Ahmad Zubair who then informed Dinah Madani about it.
Unfortunately, William Rawlins and Ray Schoonover learned that Ahmad Zubair was going to expose him. Cerberus Squad members tracked down Zubair to his house in Kandahar and captured him, in front of his family. Zubair was taken to an unknown location where he was brutally tortured by Rawlins who used his leather gloves to beat him. Rawlins demanded Zubair tell him who else knows about the Operation, but Zubair claimed that he is the only one who discovered the traffic.
Rawlins was convinced that Zubair did not tell anyone about the Operation, however, he could inform Afghan National Police or the Homeland Security about them. Deeming Zubair as a terrorist, Rawlins ordered Frank Castle to execute him with a shot in the head. Once Zubair was murdered, Schnoonover ordered Castle and Gunner Henderson to dispose of his body, burying him in the desert, somewhere in Afghanistan.
- "Easiest thing for me now would be to forget Ahmad Zubair and what happened in Afghanistan."
"Why do you think Zubair was killed by our people?"
"I was sent a video file of his murder by an anonymous source. He was interrogated and shot in the head by Americans 'cause they knew he was a cop."
- ―Dinah Madani and Sam Stein[src]
However, the Cerberus Squad was unaware that Gunner Henderson filmed the torture and execution and sent footage to the NSA. David Lieberman personally examined the footage and sent it to Dinah Madani. William Rawlins learned about the leak and used all his connections and advantages to cover the possible leak and keep himself, as well as the CIA, away from the scandal. Cerberus Squad members managed to steal the footage of Zubair's execution from Madani while she was in Afghanistan. Rawlins then ordered Carson Wolf to pull Madani away from Afghanistan and forced her to stop the investigation of Zubair's death.
Also, Rawlins ordered Wolf to track down Lieberman and eliminate him before he could leak the story to New York Bulletin. Wolf convinced Mitchell Ellison to keep Lieberman's story out of the newspaper, and then led several Homeland Security agents to find Lieberman. Eventually, Wolf managed to shoot Lieberman in the chest, seemingly killing him, and pointed in the official report that Lieberman was charged for domestic terrorism and killed for resisting arrest.
Rawlins and Schoonover decided that the execution was filmed by Frank Castle, instead of Henderson, and planned an elimination mission. Using his alter-ego "Blacksmith," Schoonover organized a drug deal in Central Park where Castle spent his time with his family, after his return from Iraq. Billy Russo was offered to participate in the mission, and although he refused to kill his best friend and his family, he let this happen. As Schoonover did not appear at the deal, Mexican Cartel, Dogs of Hell and the Kitchen Irish started a firefight, which killed Castle's entire family.