Joint Special Operations Task Force - North (JSOTF-N) (Afghanistan)
"Task Force Dagger"
In March 2002, following Operation Anaconda, JSOTF-N and CJSOTF-S were inactivated and their personnel merged together under the control of CJSOTF-A, headquartered at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
Joint Special Operations Task Force - North (JSOTF-N) was created in late 2001 to handle special operations in Afghanistan occurring above the east-west highway running from Herat to Kabul. JSOTF-N, also known as Task Force Dagger, was initially based at the former Soviet airfield at Karshi Khanabad, Uzbekistan (commonly known as K-2). The primary mission for JSOTF-N was expected to be to recover aircrews downed during the impending air campaign over Afghanistan. During its deployment, the task force become increasingly involved in ground, humanitarian, and unconventional warfare operations. This involvement in different arenas also increased confusion in the chain of command and in unity of effort. An unclear command chain presented problems in prioritization and allocation of resources.
JSOTF-N was led by elements of the Army's 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), but also included elements from the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and the US Air Force's 16th Special Operations Wing. The airmen from the 16th Special Operations Wing would "open" K-2 to US forces and then support airfield operations there. 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment would provide special operations aviation support.
By October 2001, JSOTF-N was in place and by 12 October 2001, plans were being made for insertions into Afghanistan. Extreme weather and enemy resistance forced the first insertion attempt on 14 October 2001 to be aborted, and the same factors contributed to another aborted attempt on 15 October 2001. Another attempt on 17 October 2001 was aborted, before Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA) 555 and 595 were successfully inserted on 19-20 October 2001. Over a period of 3 weeks, JSOTF-N continued to insert ODAs of the 5th Special Forces Group into Afghanistan, where they worked supporting anti-Taliban groups.
By 18 November 2001, a total of 10 ODAs from 5th Special Forces Group were in Afghanistan supporting various elements of the so-called Northern and Eastern Alliances. ODA 555 was in the Panjshir Valley supporting General Shariff. ODA joined the effort in the Panjshir Valley on 8 November 2001. ODA 595 was in the Darya-ye Suf Valley supporting General Dostam. ODA 585 was in Kunduz supporting General Burilla Kahn. ODA 553 was in Bamyan supporting General Karim Khalili. ODA 534 was split between the Darya and Balkh Valleys supporting General Atta Mohammad. ODA 586 was in Farkhar supporting General Daoud Khan. ODA 554 was in Herat supporting General Ismail Khan. ODA 574 was in Tarin Kowt supporting Hamid Karzai. ODA 583 was in the Shin Narai Valley supporting Gul Agha Sharzai.
Competition for US attention, which brought the full weight of US air power and additional aid to bear, caused tension both between the factions and deployed US elements. A decision was subsequently made to deploy 2 Special Forces Operational Detachment Charlies, a battalion-level headquarters element, to Afghanistan, as much to try and manage the various faction as US support for them.
In December 2001, the decision was also made to establish an intermediate command element for all special operations forces elements in Afghanistan, subsequently known as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A). JSOTF-N was subsequently assigned to CJSOTF-A.
The speed with which the Taliban resistance dissipated under the weight of US intervention outpaced plans to deploy significant numbers of conventional military forces to the country. In the northern areas of Afghanistan, JSOTF-N was called upon to consolidate the Taliban rout in cooperation with anti-Taliban groups. JSOTF-N, along with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force South (CJSOTF-S) had begun planning sensitive site exploitation operations in the Shahi Kot area in early January 2002 in support of this objective, and plans had been made to attack Shahi Kot itself with Northern Alliance forces support by US special operations forces. Northern Alliance elements reported a heavy enemy presence in Shahi Kot and implied that they would be unwilling to conduct the assault, even with US support. This further prompted demands for the introduction of significant conventional forces to Afghanistan. The situation in the Shahi Kot Valley prompted a transition from the SOF-centric concept of operations that had been in practice, to a more unified conventional concept of operations, leading directly to Operation Anaconda in February 2002.
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