Case Analysis On Operation Geronimo



Advanced Leader Course

Leader Core Competencies


Lesson Plan for A210

Persuasive Essay


“Presidential Authority: Operation Geronimo Case Study” Scenario


When a nation contemplates the use of force, that force must be done with legal authority and within the

strictures of the laws of armed conflict. If there is both legal authority and that force follows the principles

laid down by The Hague Rules of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 then there can be a justified

result. After September 11, 2001, Congress authorized the Commander-in-Chief at the time to use force

against those individuals who had perpetrated the attack on the United States that fateful day. Under our

constitutional scheme, the President could direct the National Command Authority to use armed force

against Al Qaeda, including Bin Laden and others. Additional international authorizations via the United

Nations and NATO followed. Overlaid in this authorization to use force was the basic international

principle of the inherent right of a nation to self-defense, found in Art. 51 of the UN Charter.

Domestically, the authorized use of force was most certainly supported by a Presidential finding to kill

Bin Laden as a hostile. By law the President must inform the leadership in Congress about these findings.

This was done years prior to the operation itself. The operation was months in the making. Intelligence

officials discovered the compound in August while monitoring an al Qaeda courier. The CIA had been

hunting that courier for years. CIA interrogators in secret overseas prison developed the first strands of

information on him. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September. 11, 2001 attacks,

provided his name. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed’s successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. The

detainees told interrogators that the courier was so trusted by bin Laden that he might very well be living

with the al Qaeda leader. By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that

President Obama wanted to “pursue an aggressive course of action,” a senior administration official said.

Over the next two and a half months, President Obama led five meetings of the National Security Council

focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him. President Obama

met with his national security advisers on March 14, 2011 to create an action plan. President Obama

personally discussed the plan with Vice Admiral William McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Joint

Special Operations Command. The commander first approach considered was to bomb the house using B-

2 Spirit stealth bombers, which could drop 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). Obama

rejected this option, however, opting for a raid instead. This would provide definitive proof that bin Laden

was inside, and limit collateral damage. On April 29, 2011, President Obama approved an operation to

kill bin Laden. It was a mission that required surgical accuracy, even more precision than could be

delivered by the government’s sophisticated Predator drones. To execute it, President Obama tapped a

small contingent of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six and put them under the command of CIA Director

Leon Panetta, whose analysts monitored the compound from afar.

Operation Geronimo is the code name given to the raid conducted by the United States Special Forces

against Osama bin Laden’s safe house in the city of Abbottābad, Pakistan on May 1, 2011. Osama Bin

Laden was killed during this operation. The operation was conducted by members of the United States

Navy SEAL Team Six, under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command, in conjunction

with U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives. The team had to go across the border of

Afghanistan to launch the attack. During the month leading up to the raid, members of the Naval Special

Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) trained on a one-acre replica of the “Waziristan Mansion”

compound in a special operations sector of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, practicing rappelling down

into it from helicopters, among other tactical approaches. DEVGRU was a 24-man platoon.

Bin Laden was in a highly fortified compound in the Pakistani town of Abbottābad. Nestled in a

neighborhood that also was near Pakistani military academy and favored by retired military leaders, the





compound was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet, topped with barbed wire. Two security gates

guarded the only way in. A third-floor terrace was shielded by a seven-foot privacy wall. No phone lines

or Internet cables ran to the property. The residents burned their garbage rather than put it out for

collection. Intelligence officials believed the million-dollar compound was built five years ago to protect

a major terrorist figure. The raid of the compound was less than 40 minutes.




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