Legal Lessons Learned
From Afghanistan and Iraq
Major Combat Operations
( 11 September 2001 – 1 May 2003 )
Center for Law and Military Operations
The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center & School
United States Army
The events of 11 September 2001 set in motion a series of U.S. military, diplomatic, and law enforcement responses that together constitute what has become known as the “Global War on Terrorism,” or GWOT. The GWOT takes place on many fronts—the seizing of terrorist financial assets, the forging and maintenance of an international coalition against terrorism, the arrest and indictment of known terrorists, and the use of military force against terrorists and their state sponsors. The focus of this Publication, however, is on the legal issues surrounding the GWOT military response.
More specifically, the focus is on the lessons learned by military legal personnel involved in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) (primarily Afghanistan) and IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) (Iraq) from 11 September 2001 to the declared end of major combat operations on 1 May 2003. 3 These judge advocates (JAs) and enlisted paralegals faced the challenges and complexities of applying law to missions that oftentimes presented unique admixtures of war and law enforcement—as the GWOT’s seemingly incongruous grouping of the terms “war” and “terrorism” suggests—that did not always fit neatly into established legal paradigms. Whether determining the applicability of the law of armed conflict to non-state terrorist actors, applying traditional and new fiscal authorities to a military occupation, or assisting in the development of rules of engagement (ROE) for an enemy that blended into civilian populations, JAs and paralegals wrestled with cutting-edge legal issues during OEF and OIF. At the same time, legal personnel continued to provide less unique but equally important support services such as legal assistance, military justice, and personnel claims.
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