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Operation Jawbreaker: An Evaluation

Topic

One of the US operations that can be ambiguous in their success is the Jawbreaker team activities. This operation, which took place in 2001, failed to achieve its primary goal, but it was incredibly effective at achieving the outcomes that were crucial for the US at the time (Bailey and Immerman 2015, 58-59). To be more specific, the attacks of 9/11 prompted the US government to target Usama bin Laden, and the primary purpose of Jawbreaker was to eliminate that threat (Bailey and Immerman 2015, 59; Buckley 2015, 1-2). The team’s methods consisted of securing the support of the Afghan Northern Alliance and providing it with relevant information and resources (Bailey and Immerman 2015, 59). Therefore, the operation was paramilitary, and it relied on intelligence services to a noticeable extent.

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Due to its clandestine operations, the US contributed to the decimation of the forces of the Taliban, which was incredibly swift. Consequently, Jawbreaker was lauded for the success of the team’s operation (Buckley 2015, 2). However, since the targeted Osama bin Laden was not captured or eliminated by Jawbreaker, the alternative opinion can also be supported; essentially, the operation did not succeed in achieving its aim (Bailey and Immerman 2015, 59). Therefore, the question of how effective Jawbreaker was could be considered debatable, which makes it a suitable topic for a research project.

Jawbreaker is technically researchable, even though relevant sources are not very numerous. The rest of the paper will present the problem that follows from this topic, explain its significance, propose a thesis statement, and discuss the data sources and methods that the project will employ. Mostly, the methods consist of a literature-based case study, which is a methodology that the researcher has already utilized in prior projects. The paper will demonstrate that the dual nature of Jawbreaker’s successfulness offers important opportunities for analyzing its positive and negative features by applying a nuanced set of success criteria.

Problem/Research Question

The problem of this project is the assessment (evaluation) of Jawbreaker. A simple question would be framed as follows: was Jawbreaker successful? However, given the findings of the preliminary investigation, it can be reframed to introduce the following question: based on different perspectives, which aspects of Jawbreaker can be considered a success? This question implies the need for investigating Jawbreaker in depth (to the point of assessing its different aspects), and it also requires providing a nuanced analysis that considers different viewpoints. Therefore, it is an appropriate question for this case study, which will enable the project to explore Jawbreaker in depth.

Significance of the Study

The significance of assessing the success of an operation is multifold. Among other things, assessments are required for justifying individual operations, determining effective solutions, and increasing the effectiveness of ongoing operations (Meharg 2009, 1-3). Basically, evaluations of operations’ success are required for the maturation of military and paramilitary approaches, and the evaluation of both successes and failures can be helpful. In addition, the presented case study focuses on an operation that has achieved incredible success in terms of fighting the Taliban while also failing its primary purpose. Therefore, its exploration can yield findings for both desired and undesired outcomes, the analysis of which is valuable.

Furthermore, as an example of operation evaluation, this study may provide some conclusions about the process of evaluation, which could be helpful for similar projects. It is especially true since this research intends to apply different perspectives to the operation’s analysis. Finally, it is noteworthy that there is not much research on Jawbreaker, which appears inappropriate, especially given its importance and mixed outcomes. Thus, the presented case study will investigate an operation that is not very well-researched, covering a gap to an extent, and it will offer some insights into the evaluation of operations and the factors that may or may not make them successful, which can be applied in future research or practice.

Thesis Statement

The information that has been reviewed on Jawbreaker so far allows making some suggestions about the success of the operation. As can be seen from the topic review, arguments can be made to demonstrate both the effectiveness of Jawbreaker at opposing the Taliban and its failure at achieving the main reason for its launching. Both these positions appear reasonable, and they demonstrate that a binary approach to the concept of success may be restrictive.

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Effectiveness can often be assessed differently from different perspectives (Meharg 2009, 5-8). Therefore, it is logical to expect that a more nuanced analysis of Jawbreaker would demonstrate both strengths and weaknesses, as well as different direct and indirect (and tangible or intangible) outcomes. The thesis of the project is that Jawbreaker demonstrates the features of a successful and unsuccessful operation, which is why it is more reasonable to consider its success on a spectrum and review several different perspectives on it. This thesis incorporates an answer to the research question and describes the proposed approaches to answering it.

Reviewed Sources

Jawbreaker is not an operation that has had a lot of research dedicated to it, which enables this project to provide an overview of most (if not all) reliable sources on it. A list of such sources is presented below, and their significance and relevance will be explained here. Almost no peer-reviewed articles are dedicated to Jawbreaker, but Strandquist (2017, 85-86) produced a quick overview of the operation and considered it in the context of other paramilitary operations of the US.

In another peer-reviewed article, Dearing (2019, 104) did not directly (or explicitly) comment on Jawbreaker, but the author discussed the method that Jawbreaker utilized (allying with warlords) and examined its various implications, including intangible ones. It is noteworthy that both articles are fairly recent; while for a 2001 operation, older sources should be appropriate, newer sources may have more opportunities for contextualizing Jawbreaker and reporting its long-term effects.

While articles are scarce, a number of books either touch upon or consider Jawbreaker in detail. Bailey and Immerman (2015, 58-59) offered a well-referenced academic book that incorporated a complex perspective on Jawbreaker, even though it cannot be considered nuanced since it is not very detailed. Similarly, Hilpert (2014, 31) offered a quick overview of Jawbreaker in an academic book with multiple relevant references and a general context of the US operations in Afghanistan. There are also several books that recount the events from the perspectives of the people who were involved in Jawbreaker and other Afghanistan operations (Peake 2015, 442).

Those by Berntsen and Pezzullo (2005) and Schroen (2005) are prime examples. Their writing style suggests that the two books are not academic, but as witness accounts, they can be a source of some details about the operation.

The Central Intelligence Agency (2018) provides some information about Jawbreaker, even though it is not very detailed. This source can be considered a primary one, though, which is why it is rather valuable. Also, Kerry’s (2009, 7) report about Tora Bora can be viewed as a source of information about the US operations in Afghanistan, although Jawbreaker is barely mentioned by the author. Finally, Buckley (2015, 1-2) prepared a thesis that was dedicated to a particular aspect of Jawbreaker (the cultural competence of the team members), which makes it a valuable resource, even though it is not peer-reviewed.

To summarize, there exist some sources that consider Jawbreaker to different extent and in different contexts, and this project will be using those of them that are especially valuable and reliable, as well as the ones that contribute more arguments to the research question and thesis.

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Preliminary Source List (Repeated in the Section with References)

Bailey, Beth, and Richard Immerman. 2015. Understanding the U.S. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New York: NYU Press.

Berntsen, Gary, and Ralph Pezzullo. 2005. Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA’s Key Field Commander. New York: Crown/Archetype.

Buckley, Chip Michael. 2015. Master’s Thesis: Overt Acceptance: Cultural Intelligence in Covert Operatives. Erie: Mercyhurst University.

Central Intelligence Agency. 2018. “Experience the Collection.” CIA Museum. Web.

Dearing, Matthew P. 2019. “Turning Gangsters into Allies: The American Way of War in Northern Afghanistan.” Small Wars & Insurgencies 30 (1): 101-139.

Hilpert, Carolin. 2014. Strategic Cultural Change and the Challenge for Security Policy: Germany and the Bundeswehr’s Deployment to Afghanistan. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kerry, John F. 2009. Tora Bora Revisited: How We Failed to Get bin Laden and Why It Matters Today. A Report to Members of the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Schroen, Gary. 2005. First in: How Seven CIA Officers Opened the War on Terror in Afghanistan. New York: Random House Publishing Group.

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Strandquist, Jon. 2017. “US Paramilitary Programs in Comparative Perspective: CIA, the US Army Special Forces, and the Question of Organizational Form.” Defense & Security Analysis 33 (2): 79-93.

Evaluation Methods

The goal of this project is to evaluate an operation that has been both successful and unsuccessful, which is why a comprehensive evaluation framework is required. Meharg (2009, 5) pointed out that effectiveness and measures of effectiveness were not universal terms. Furthermore, Meharg (2009, 11) suggested that even established frameworks could be treated as customizable. For this evaluation, it is proposed to view success as a complex and non-binary phenomenon which can be assessed with respect to several different aspects of an operation. Based on Meharg’s (2009, 1-8) analysis of the concept of effectiveness, as well as Nuechterlein’s (2001, 20) definition of national interest, the important aspects include the following points.

  1. Procedures. Here, the specifics of the operation will be considered, including costs, risks, and level of planning and oversight. This section may help to determine the causes of the operation’s outcomes, which makes it especially important.
  2. The operation’s outcomes viewed from varied perspectives. Intentional and unintentional outcomes will be reviewed, as well as long- and short-term ones, including tangible and intangible ones among them. In addition, the importance of the different outcomes will be assessed; national interests will be prioritized.
  3. Goals (objectives) and their attainment. This section will report the operation’s goals and discuss the fact of their achievement (or the failure to achieve them).

Each of the three criteria will be discussed separately, and it is anticipated that the operation may be viewed as relatively successful in one respect and unsuccessful in others. While these criteria are not directly stated by Meharg (2009, 1-8), they follow from the analysis of this article. Since Meharg (2009, 11) recommends customized frameworks, this approach to the paper by Meharg (2009, 1-8) seems appropriate. The proposed framework is applicable to the operation and will be able to provide the nuanced analysis that is required for the project. As for the data, the above-presented materials will be used to gather information about the operation, which will then be organized with the help of the framework. Therefore, the proposed research is a case study with self-developed analysis criteria that will use the existing literature as the source of necessary data.

These methods should be able to produce a response to the stated research question. Indeed, the question calls for an in-depth investigation of the operation, which case studies are capable of performing (Yin 2017, 15-16). Given the potential value of a customized operation evaluation framework, the decision to create one is reasonable (Meharg 2009, 11). Given that open-access information about Jawbreaker is mostly present within the materials that are described above, they are the most convenient source of relevant information. Thus, the proposed plan is justifiable and can feasibly produce the desired outcome.

References

Bailey, Beth, and Richard Immerman. 2015. Understanding the U.S. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New York: NYU Press.

Berntsen, Gary, and Ralph Pezzullo. 2005. Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA’s Key Field Commander. New York: Crown/Archetype.

Buckley, Chip Michael. 2015. Master’s Thesis: Overt Acceptance: Cultural Intelligence in Covert Operatives. Erie: Mercyhurst University.

Central Intelligence Agency. 2018. “Experience the Collection.” CIA Museum. Web.

Dearing, Matthew P. 2019. “Turning Gangsters into Allies: The American Way of War in Northern Afghanistan.” Small Wars & Insurgencies 30 (1): 101-139.

Hilpert, Carolin. 2014. Strategic Cultural Change and the Challenge for Security Policy: Germany and the Bundeswehr’s Deployment to Afghanistan. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kerry, John F. 2009. Tora Bora Revisited: How We Failed to Get bin Laden and Why It Matters Today. A Report to Members of the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Meharg, Sarah Jane. 2009. “Measuring Effectiveness in Complex Operations: What is Good Enough?” Canadian Defense & Foreign Affairs Institute. Web.

Nuechterlein, Donald E. 2001. America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses Its Role in a Turbulent World. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Peake, Hayden. 2015. “88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary.” Studies in Intelligence 59 (2): 1-2.

Schroen, Gary. 2005. First in: How Seven CIA Officers Opened the War on Terror in Afghanistan. New York: Random House Publishing Group.

Strandquist, Jon. 2017. “US Paramilitary Programs in Comparative Perspective: CIA, the US Army Special Forces, and the Question of Organizational Form.” Defense & Security Analysis 33 (2): 79-93.

Yin, Robert. 2017. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods. Translated by Edith Grossman. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

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