The history of American military operations includes dozens of armed interventions that had different objectives and were aimed both at liberation goals and suppressing the aggression of opponents. In the history of the 21st century, the largest number of US force interventions has been recorded in the Middle East, where conflict zones are numerous. At the very beginning of the 2000s, the tragedy of 9/11 shocked the whole world since this event was the largest terrorist act in human history.
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A few days later, a group of American troops landed in Afghanistan, the territory in which hostilities had been fought for a long time. This operation was codenamed Jawbreaker and was one of the significant events that determined the success of further steps to eliminate terrorist threats.
Both in academic literature and other popular sources, Jawbreaker is described differently and characterized from distinctive perspectives regarding its success and impact on the world order. Through the analysis of available resources, this armed intervention will be examined in detail, including the basic premises of the conflict, the preparation of the attack, and the operation course and outcomes. Jawbreaker was an important and strategically necessary step that determined the disposition of forces and became the reason for resolving the tense situation in the Afghan war zone.
Operation Prerequisites and Background
After the whole world was shocked by the 9/11 tragedy, the American command did not hesitate to retaliate. The situation was tense to the limit, and if no response had been taken, this could have been a reason for dissatisfaction among all the citizens of the United States and other countries condemning terrorist activities, without exception.
As a result, as McNabb1 notes, only eight days after the New York tragedy, a special detachment of troops under the auspices of the CIA was formed to retaliate against bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda criminal group. According to Schroen2, this squad was the first to enter the Afghan territory to use force, thereby reacting to the previous attack on the towers of the World Trade Center.
The official version of the premise of this operation in northern Afghanistan suggests that the threat of terrorism and numerous civilian casualties were the reasons that prompted the US government to retaliate. As a result, Jawbreaker went down in history as revenge on the Taliban for their crimes against peace.
The events of 9/11 may be considered a key prerequisite for the paramilitary operation in Afghanistan. Knox3 remarks that after 2,977 people died during the attack on the twin towers, the US authorities were obliged to respond to this aggression. The Taliban movement led by bin Laden posed a threat to world peace and created pressure not only in the Middle East but also in other regions where the course towards the establishment of Islamic orders was maintained. The failure to prevent the most global terrorist act in the history of humanity has led to numerous casualties and entailed panic and mounting concern.
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At the same time, as Henriksen4 argues, Donald Rumsfeld, the then Secretary of United States Defense, deliberately promoted the idea of sending a squad led by the CIA to Afghanistan even before the landing of the country’s regular armed forces. As a result, Operation Jawbreaker was one of the first secret paramilitary missions to receive publicity not immediately and was planned under the possibility of delivering quick and unexpected strikes.
Preparation of the Attack and Planning
The preparation of Jawbreaker was part of the secret mission of the two federal security agencies. Berntsen and Pezzullo5 state that this campaign was a product of the development of the CIA and the FBI, which interacted together and worked in a cooperative mode, engaging members to participate in the counter-terrorism operation. It was planned that three people would land in Afghanistan, but the mission itself involved more participants (Knox6).
Different authors describe the planning phase of the operation distinctively, and some details are hidden to maintain secrecy. For instance, Ye7 notes that the key mission of the paramilitary group was to join the US forces to counter the Taliban and eliminate bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist movement.
In unofficial public sources, more information is given on the nature of the operation planning. According to D’Costa8, Jawbreaker members transported a cargo of money worth $3 million and modern and high-precision weapons designed to make the group work as efficiently as possible. Thus, the team’s mission was not limited solely to offensive goals and included assistance to the allied forces.
In some academic sources, the purpose of sponsoring the army is also mentioned. As Strandquist9 states, Jawbreaker participants set themselves the goal of not only contributing to the regular American army but also providing monetary support, which was planned as a fund to build an effective alliance in northern Afghanistan and fight against Al Qaeda.
Coordinating airstrikes on terrorist positions was one of the objectives of the operation, and initially, the command set them the task of creating a stable background for introducing additional forces. In a tense situation and political instability, rallying the military troops of individual departments was a strategically important task and Henriksen10 argues that joint planning could have more productive results than training separate groups.
In addition, establishing cooperation with the eastern leaders of the struggle against the Taliban was one of the tasks that the US government set. Some public sources cite evidence that the CIA operation involved not only the unification of a military alliance but also the sponsorship of local military leaders to counter Al Qaeda (“Operation Jawbreaker”11). Thus, a series of objectives were planned through the Jawbreaker operation in Afghanistan.
Landing of American Troops in Afghanistan
As already mentioned, the start of the Jawbreaker operation was only a few days after the 9/11 attack. Walling12 describes the chronology of events and notes that on September 26, a group of seven went to the north of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to negotiate with the leaders of the alliance fighting Al Qaeda.
The US invasion was planned as a result of these negotiations, and the mission itself was defined not only as an act of peacekeeping will but also as a counter to the terrorist aggression of the Taliban. Gary Schroen13 was the leader of the group of military personnel, and in his book, he describes the detailed landing process in Afghanistan and notes that initially, neither he nor his leadership had any idea what the militarized team might face upon arrival in the country.
Nevertheless, the preparation for the landing was carried out significantly and thoroughly. According to Martin14, who describes the features of the operation in less detail than its direct participants, the CIA team members had all the necessary information regarding the disposition of forces in the region where they were to go and even had basic local language skills. Therefore, the landing was more thoughtful than it might seem at first glance.
The operation participants realized that they would not have a second landing attempt. Keller15 notes that the CIA leadership instructed Berntsen, another member of the group, who, in his joint book with Pezzullo16, describes the detailed progress of the preparation and deployment of the squad in Afghanistan.
Some authors of online articles pay particular attention to the details of military outfits. D’Costa17 reviews the equipment of the soldiers in detail, and as evidence, relevant photographs are given that became public years after the Americans invaded Afghanistan. In these pictures, it is clear that the team members had precision weapons and equipment and were ready to land on the designated territory. Even today, the armament that the Jawbreaker fighters had is effective and in demand, which allows asserting about significant funds spent on conducting the operation.
As a result, after coming the north of Kabul, the squad reported on a successful landing via satellite telephony, which was another benefit simplifying control over all stages of the team’s actions (Martin18). Thus, attention to detail was a special feature of the preparation of the operation and the landing of the military.
The course of the Operation
The key tasks planned during Jawbreaker, in particular, the suppression of the Al Qaeda group’s active hostilities and the establishment of allied contacts with the leaders of local resistance, were achieved quickly. According to Strandquist19, even though the members of the operation failed to eliminate Osama bin Laden, they managed to cleanse Kabul from enemy groups and push terrorists back significantly. The mission participants took action immediately, and, as Schroen20 states, three days was enough to inflict a substantial strike on the positions of the opponents.
Different authors provide distinctive ideas on how fast and successful the operation was. For instance, McNabb21 argues that too few military personnel could not lead to significant results, and only due to careful preparation, throughout the entire period of the operation, the squad was able to realize the task partially.
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Henriksen22, conversely, notes that massive strikes on terrorists’ military infrastructure at the very beginning of the operation were an effective and right solution. As a result, the joint mission of the CIA and the FBI was implemented as soon as possible and was consistent with the initially outlined action plan.
The detailed descriptions of Jawbreaker may be assessed in the works of direct participants in this paramilitary mission, although the authors’ approaches to interpreting the events and revealing the whole course of the operation differ. Schroen’s23 book is more clearly structured and accurate, and all the events are described in strict chronology, starting from September 9, 2001, two days before the terrorist attack in New York.
Berntsen and Pezzullo24 begin the story less formally and start their narrative with open dialogues, which resembles an artistic rather than a documentary style of presentation. However, despite the differences in the style of writing, the course of the operation is described similarly since the aforementioned authors participated in this military mission and were eyewitnesses of the events that went down in the history of the fight against terrorism.
Effective weapons were used shortly after landing, and massive fire coordinated by high-precision guidance systems reached its goal. Therefore, the immediate implementation of the operation took little time because allied forces were ready for help from the US special squad, which was a turning point in the fight against aggressively-minded enemy forces.
Outcomes of the Jawbreaker Operation
The results of the operation in question are interpreted differently in both academic and public sources, but despite the possible criticism of certain governmental decisions, the outcomes of Jawbreaker were positive beyond any doubt. Strandquist25 gives specific figures: in about two months, with the support of 15,000 local allied forces and costs of $70 million, the participants of the operation managed to destroy about 60,000 Al Qaeda terrorists.
This was a significant achievement in conditions complicated by the geographical features of the country, in particular, its mountainous landscape. Therefore, both for the American command and the world as a whole, the Jawbreaker operation became an important paramilitary intervention proving that rallying against the enemy can be an effective measure to suppress extremists’ criminal activities and achieve significant results even due to the forces of small units.
About the global problem of terrorism, the operation under consideration was one of the first in which the emphasis was not on the number of participants involved but on the effectiveness of attacks due to high-precision equipment and weapons. According to Ye26, the joint actions of the American Special Forces and allied units made it possible to defeat the enemy through massive airstrikes, and the fall of the extremist regime was the key achievement of this mission.
Due to the competent actions of the squad and a pre-thought out plan, the bombing continued for three days almost without stopping, which, as Walling27 remarks were one of the main factors of a successful operation. As a result, the retreat of the opponents was inevitable.
In addition to the dominance of the peacekeeping forces, accompanying positive outcomes were achieved. Martin28 mentions the unification of residents into a single army of the movement against the Taliban, and such a rally was beneficial not only to the citizens of the country but also to the American government that received significant support and realized the goal of overthrowing the regime of aggressors. Thus, the results of the Jawbreaker operation are undeniably positive, and the role of the participants in this mission in the fight against world extremism is crucial.
The Jawbreaker operation organized by the CIA and the FBI after the 9/11 attack was a strategically important mission that changed the disposition of forces in Afghanistan and became a significant step in the fight against Al Qaeda and global terrorism in general. Careful preparation and the use of effective weapons were key conditions on which the American government relied.
The landing of the group of participants in the operation in northern Afghanistan had the goal not only to resist extremists but also to call on allied forces to fight against the aggressor jointly. The outcomes of Jawbreaker were positive, which may be proved by pushing terrorist groups back and the destruction of their military infrastructure.
Berntsen, Gary, and Ralph Pezzullo. Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA’s Key Field Commander. New York: Crown/Archetype, 2005.
D’Costa, Ian. “This Is What the CIA Warriors Carried into Afghanistan in the Days After 9/11.” Military Times, 2019. Web.
Henriksen, Thomas. Eyes, Ears, and Daggers: Special Operations Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency in America’s Evolving Struggle Against Terrorism. Stanford: Hoover Press, 2016.
Keller, Jared. “These CIA Officers Were the First US Boots on the Ground in Afghanistan After 9/11 – And One Was ‘Marine Todd’.” Task & Purpose, 2019. Web.
Martin, Claudia. The War in Afghanistan. New York: Cavendish Square Publishing, LLC, 2018.
McNabb, James Brian. A Military History of the Modern Middle East. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2017.
“Operation Jawbreaker.” The Robinson History Club. 2019. Web.
Schroen, Gary. First in: How Seven CIA Officers Opened the War on Terror in Afghanistan. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2005.
Strandquist, Jon. “US Paramilitary Programs in Comparative Perspective: CIA, the US Army Special Forces, and the Question of Organizational Form.” Defense & Security Analysis 33, no. 2 (2017): 79-93.
Walling, Michael. Enduring Freedom, Enduring Voices: US Operations in Afghanistan. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2015.
Ye, Wong Chooi. “US Military Operations in Afghanistan: Sun Tzu’s View on Opportunities and Challenges.” Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences 12, no. 7 (2018): 10-13.
- James Brian McNabb, A Military History of the Modern Middle East (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2017), 410.
- Gary Schroen, First in: How Seven CIA Officers Opened the War on Terror in Afghanistan (New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2005), 14.
- Patrick Knox, “CIA Releases Never Before Seen Pics of Operation Jawbreaker – America’s Bloody Revenge Assault on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan Just Days After 9/11,” The Sun, 2019. Web.
- Thomas Henriksen, Eyes, Ears, and Daggers: Special Operations Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency in America’s Evolving Struggle Against Terrorism (Stanford: Hoover Press, 2016), 80.
- Gary Berntsen and Ralph Pezzullo, Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA’s Key Field Commander (New York: Crown/Archetype, 2005), 3.
- Knox, “CIA Releases Never Before Seen Pics of Operation Jawbreaker.”
- Wong Chooi Ye, “US Military Operations in Afghanistan: Sun Tzu’s View on Opportunities and Challenges,” Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences 12, no. 7 (2018): 11.
- Ian D’Costa, “This Is What the CIA Warriors Carried into Afghanistan in the Days After 9/11,” Military Times, 2019. Web.
- Jon Strandquist, “US Paramilitary Programs in Comparative Perspective: CIA, the US Army Special Forces, and the Question of Organizational Form,” Defense & Security Analysis 33, no. 2 (2017): 85.
- Henriksen, Eyes, Ears, and Daggers, 80.
- “Operation Jawbreaker,” The Robinson History Club, 2019. Web.
- Michael Walling, Enduring Freedom, Enduring Voices: US Operations in Afghanistan (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2015), 27.
- Schroen, First in, 18.
- Claudia Martin, The War in Afghanistan (New York: Cavendish Square Publishing, LLC, 2018), 12.
- Jared Keller, “These CIA Officers Were the First US Boots on the Ground in Afghanistan After 9/11 – And One Was ‘Marine Todd’,” Task & Purpose. Web.
- Berntsen and Pezzullo, Jawbreaker, 32.
- D’Costa, “This Is What the CIA Warriors Carried into Afghanistan.”
- Martin, The War in Afghanistan, 14.
- Strandquist, “US Paramilitary Programs in Comparative Perspective,” 86.
- Schroen, First in, 49.
- McNabb, A Military History of the Modern Middle East, 301.
- Henriksen, Eyes, Ears, and Daggers, 80.
- Schroen, First in, 4.
- Berntsen and Pezzullo, Jawbreaker, 1.
- Strandquist, “US Paramilitary Programs in Comparative Perspective,” 85.
- Ye, “US Military Operations in Afghanistan,” 11.
- Walling, Enduring Freedom, 41.
- Martin, The War in Afghanistan, 13.