Six days earlier the four aid workers had been seized by kidnappers as they travelled on horseback from the Yafta to the Yavan districts of Badakshan.
The hostages were believed to be alive and well but worryingly the kidnappers were known to have been in contact with a small pocket of Taliban fighters.
Over the next few days, SAS commanders, intelligence officers and members of the Afghan National Defence Directorate, watched the kidnappers activities on real-time video transmitted via satellite from the Predator as they prepared the rescue plan within the headquarters of the Joint Special Forces Group in Kabul.
Initially negotiations between the Afghan government and the kidnappers, who were demanding a £6million ransom together with the release from custody of a colleague, were relatively constructive.
A dialogue had been established and there was no perceived threat to the hostages life, even though, somewhat worryingly the kidnappers were in communication with the Taliban.
Meanwhile the special forces began to plan for the worse case scenario and over the following 24 hours, started to reconnoitre a series of potential helicopter landing sites - not an easy task given the nature of the terrain, highly mountainous and thick with forest.
The local population was composed of mainly farmers and shepherd and insurgent activity in the area was limited but there was a large criminal element in the region, which sits on one of the main opium smuggling routes into Tajikistan and onwards into Russia, the troops were told.
Timing, as in all special forces operations, was critical.
Launch a rescue mission too early, and the hostages risked being executed leave it too late and there was every chance the women could disappear only to resurface weeks later facing execution on an al-Qaeda video.While the British and US forces planned and rehearsed their rescue mission, back in London the Prime Minister chaired several Cobra (Cabinet office Briefing Room A) meetings where he kept senior members of the cabinet informed of the latest events.In attendance amongst others were the heads of MI5 and MI6, the Director of Special Forces, General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Tim Allen, Sir Kim Darroch, the National Security Advisor and the Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary.“I have given my approval to COMISAF [General John Allen, Commander of the International Security and Assistance Force] for a rescue mission to be launched,” he told the meeting gathered round a large conference table in the windowless room under Downing Street. Then, early on Wednesday, the Predator gleaned some vital intelligence.Miss Johnston, 28 and 26-year-old Moragwa Oirere also an aid worker were separated from their two Afghan colleagues and being held in a different cave.Of more concern, however, were the details of an intercepted phone call in which the Taliban had begun to urge the kidnappers to “make a declaration of intent”.