Task Force 11 (TF 11)
"Task Force Sword"
On 19 December 2001, after it had been concluded that any remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban elements believed to be in Tora Bora had melted into the local population or fled into Pakistan, TF 11 was inactivated.
Task Force 11 (TF 11), also known as Task Force Sword, was a combined joint interagency special operations task force under the direction of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) deployed to Afghanistan in late 2001 to conduct direct action missions against several high value al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in southern Afghanistan. TF 11 was to concentrate on gathering intelligence and eliminating individual terrorist threats. TF 11 consisted of US special operations forces and special operations forces from the United Kingdom. In addition, TF 11 was tasked with coordinating the interagency effort in Afghanistan to include organizations like the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency. TF 11 eventually established a base of operations in Khost, Afghanistan.
TF 11 was largely separate from other special operations forces and other chains of command in the area of operations. However, TF 11 did coordinate with other special operations and conventional military elements in Afghanitan during its deployment and also sourced support from conventional elements like the US Marine Corps' Task Force 58. This did not prevent confusion in the chains of command, further complicated by TF 11's covert nature.
TF 11 was first inserted into Afghanistan in October 2001 to take control of Objective Rhino, the codename for a dirt strip capable of handling special operations aircraft in Afghanistan's remote south-central desert region. There a forward arming and refueling point (FARP) was established for follow-on forces. The primary objective of the raid was in Kandahar. Initially established as a United Arab Emirates hunting camp, Objective Rhino possessed several primitive outbuildings. A walled compound containing reinforced concrete structures and guard towers was located at the southern end of the 6,400-foot-long runway. National intelligence agencies had monitored the facility since the late 1990s, when Osama bin Laden was reported to have resided nearby.
A US Army Pathfinder Team from the 75th Ranger Regiment reported that the location was deserted of enemy forces. Preceded by strikes from B-2 bombers and AC-130 gunships, some 200 soldiers from Companies A and C, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were parachuted onto Objective Rhino from US Air Force MC-130 aircraft of the 16th Special Operations Wing. Despite initial reports, 11 enemy soldiers were reportedly killed by preparatory fires, and another was shot during the ground assault while orbiting gunships engaged several vehicles and foot mobile reinforcements as the operation progressed. The elements of 3/75th Ranger Regiment remained on the ground at Objective Rhino for approximately 5 hours, while the main raid force conducted its operation in Kandahar and returned to the FARP. The raid force was inserted by helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Company B, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment had also been parachuted onto Objective Honda, the codename another remote airfield in Dalbandin, Pakistan. Objective Honda was to service as a contingency operations site in support of the Kandahar raid being staged from Objective Rhino. Additional forces were inserted into Objective Honda by helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. During the operation a US Army MH-60 experienced adverse flying conditions and made a hard landing, resulting in the deaths of 2 personnel onboard and 3 injuries.
The raid in Kandahar centered around Objective Gecko, the codename for a residential compound belonging to Mullah Mohammed Omar, on the outskirts of Kandahar. Following preparatory fires delivered by AC-130 gunships and Army MH-60s, 91 special operations personnel disembarked from 4 MH-47 helicopters with their assault vehicles. Establishing security positions, the special operations forces stormed the compound and began clearing buildings. As the raiders exited the buildings, they came under intense Taliban small arms and either rocket-propelled grenade or mortar fire. The special operators disengaged with the help of Army MH-60s and boarded the waiting MH-47s. Approximately an hour after initiating the assault, the final ground elements departed Kandahar.
Though 30 enemy personnel were reported to have been killed in the raid, Mullah Omar was not present and the reports of the quality of intelligence gathered by the raiding force varied. Twelve special operators were injured during the raid and an MH-47 lost a portion of its undercarriage during the extraction, which subsequently became a Taliban trophy. Problems with the raid triggered a review of special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures by US Central Command (CENTCOM) and reportedly British authorities also urged CENTCOM to forgo such air assaults in favor of establishing a base of operations within the country.
TF 11 participated in the fighting in the Tora Bora region during December 2001. Initially, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 572, part of Joint Special Operations Task Force - North (JSOTF-N) had been coordinating US participation in the fighting there. ODA 572 established observation post Cobra 25B on the northwestern side of a canyon in region. Between 8 and 10 December, CENTCOM deployed a 50-man detachment from TF 11 to Tora Bora to assume command and control of US involvement in the battle. The special operators with TF 11 in Tora Bora, including members of the British Air Service, were said to operate with greater freedom than the Special Forces personnel who had previously deployed there.
Though it was believed that the operations in Tora Bora would contain the remnants of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the country, it became clear that despite extensive preparations, significant elements had slipped through the cordon. On 15 December 2001, an operational team from the Central Intelligence Agency, codenamed Jawbreaker, intercepted Osama Bin Laden giving a farewell address to his followers. By 19 December 2001, it was concluded that any remaining elements believed to be in Tora Bora had melted into the local population or fled into Pakistan.
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