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Jawbreaker and the Secret Operation of Task Force Dagger



On September 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York. Seventeen minutes later, a second commercial airplane crashed into the South Tower. By the end of the day there would be 2,977 victims in the deadliest terrorist attack in human history. I remember being a young kid in middle school in New York hearing about airplanes crashing into buildings and being unsure what to think. At first I was terrified because my father worked in NYC, so I tried to reach out to him. Luckily he was okay but had witnessed the entire attack from his office window. Unfortunately, one of my classmates lost her father in the World Trade Center that morning. Almost everyone knows about the September 11th attacks and the War in Afghanistan, but they don't know about the heroes on the ground and the secret operations in Afghanistan.


The first Mi-17 Helicopter flown into Afghanistan by a covert CIA unit


The United States immediately sprung into action following the heinous terrorist attacks against its country and drafted up plans to invade Afghanistan, one of the strongholds of the terrorist organization responsible for September 11th; Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The United States knew that they couldn't just launch an all out ground assault team from the beginning. They had to gather intelligence, soften up the target area, and have a plan in place to get the support of the Afghans who want to force out the Taliban. The United States wanted to get the help of the Northern Alliance, the group of soldiers fighting the Taliban in the Panjshir Valley. On September 26, 2001, the US covertly inserted a team of ten CIA officers into the Panjshir Valley with the unit callsign of "Jawbreaker". This CIA mission was led by CIA officer Gary Schroen, widely regarded as the most decorated CIA officer in history. Jawbreaker brought in human assets and three million dollars in a metal briefcase in an attempt to buy support from the Northern Alliance for their invasion of Afghanistan.


First American military personnel in Afghanistan as a major component of Task Force Dagger


On October 19, 2001, Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 555 and 595 consisting of United States Army Special Forces Green Beret soldiers were covertly flown into a former Soviet air base located in Uzbekistan. Due to the difficult flight route and conditions of the Hindu Kush mountains, ODA 555 and 595 were flown in separately and inserted in two different areas near the reconnaissance point in the Panjshir Valley where Jawbreaker and the Northern Alliance waited for their arrival. Once Task Force Dagger reached the recon point, everyone discussed the next plan of action: push back the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the Panjshir Valley to aid the Northern Alliance and create openings to insert more United States ground forces.


Horses were optimal transportation for the difficult terrain in Northern Afghanistan


The Northern Alliance provided the US Special Forces with horses because that was the only transportation available in the treacherous mountains in Northern Afghanistan. Almost all of the US Special Forces soldiers had no experience in riding horses so it was certainly a learning curve for them, especially since the Afghan horses often fought with each other. Just two days after the insertion of Task Force Dagger, the Northern Alliance prepared to attack some nearby fortified villages occupied by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The area leading up to the first village of Bishqab was a wide open plain, which seemed like a suicide mission since the Northern Alliance and US Special Forces soldiers would be exposed to enemy fire. However, with the assistance of precision munitions and American superiority they would take Bishqab in only 18 hours with several Taliban fighters surrendering.


Green Berets in Afghanistan


The next day the Northern Alliance and US Special Forces soldiers would take the village of Cobaki. Shortly after this victory more ODAs would be inserted into Afghanistan to assist ODA 555 and 595. With a growing offensive and United States military firepower, the Northern Alliance would attempt to take the city of Mazar-i-Sharif; the fourth largest city in Afghanistan. The capture of Mazar-i-Sharif and the nearby airfield from Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces was one of the primary objectives of Task Force Dagger so that the United States could bring in more soldiers and supplies. Thanks to more well-placed ordinance, the surging Northern Alliance was able to take Mazar-i-Sharif and the nearby airfield with Task Force Dagger soldiers.


Special Forces Soldiers mounted on horseback shortly after the Battle of Mazar-i-Sharif


Within two months of the insertion of Jawbreaker, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces were defeated. They were continuously forced to retreat from the Northern Alliance and US Special Forces soldiers into the mountains of Afghanistan. Jawbreaker and Task Force Dagger proved to be a major success with the United States not requiring significant ground forces to be inserted into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. However, the United States ground forces would remain in Afghanistan to pursue high-value targets, including the leader of Al-Qaeda and mastermind behind the September 11th attacks; Osama Bin Laden.


The stories and heroic actions from the War in Afghanistan will continue on.


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