Jawbreaker - CIA Special Activities Division

Jawbreaker was the code name given to first CIA team to enter Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11th 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. The team was also known as Northern Afghanistan Liaison Team (NALT)

The CIA had been in contact with the Northern Alliance for several years, during their campaign against the Taliban. It was clear to CIA planners that they key to success in Afghanistan would be to use the indigenous anti-Taliban forces, namely the Northern Alliance in the North, and the Pushtan tribes in the South, in combination with US air power and SOF on the ground. The CIA saw the Northern Alliance as the priority - if the Taliban could be defeated in the North, the South would soon follow. Before any US military action could effectively take place, the CIA would have to go in and link up with the Northern Alliance.

In late September, 2001, the seven man Jawbreaker team flew into Uzbekistan on a CIA L100 cargo plane. Once there they they prepared for the insertion into Afghanistan. On the 26th of September, Jawbreaker flew in a CIA-owned MI-17 helicopter, operated by Air Branch pilots, over the Hindu Kush mountains, into the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, where they were met by representatives from the Northern Alliance. The team quickly established a base of operations close to Barak, with secure comms back to CIA Counterterrorist Center (CTC).
Barak, the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan (google earth kmz file)

The SAD Officers were armed with AK-47s with folding-stocks and Browning High Power 9mm pistols. They carried secure satellite communications gear, GPS mapping equipment, and several million dollars in cash.

Jawbreaker - Operations

The tasks carried out by Jawbreaker included:

  • meetings with key Northern Alliance commanders to ensure their cooperation with the planned US military intervention in Afghanistan. A large part of this consisted of demonstrating the seriousness of American intent. Millions of dollars in cash were handed out to NA higher-ups so they could purchase weapons and supplies.

  • established a joint CIA/NA intelligence cell in order to collect and share intel on the Taliban / Al Qaeda forces in the North. Jawbreaker was particularly interested in the location of Al Qaeda leaders, including Bin Laden, as well as the locations of Al Qaeda training camps.

  • using GPS devices, Jawbreaker mapped the frontline positions of both the Northern Alliance and Taliban positions. These maps were vital in ensuring that the right targets were struck when US air power was eventually brought to bear.

  • an old British landing strip was converted into a runway capable of supporting Air Branch L100 re supply flights.

  • preparing the ground for US Special Operations forces to enter the Panjshir Valley and begin operations against the Taliban / Al Qaeda. An ODA from the 5th Special Forces Group (ODA 555) inserted into the valley on the night of the October 19th and linked up with Jawbreaker.. The ODA had brought SOFLAM Laser Target Designators (LTDs) with them in order to call in precision guided weapons from US warplanes down onto Taliban / Al Qaeda positions along the nearby Shomali Plains.

    Shomali Plain, Afghanistan (google earth kmz file)

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