Air Power Against Terror: America's Conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom

Air Power Against Terror: America's Conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom

Benjamin S. Lambeth
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 456
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  • Book Info
    Air Power Against Terror: America's Conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom
    Book Description:

    The terrorist attacks of 9/11 plunged the United States into a determined counteroffensive against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. This report details the initial U.S. military response to those attacks, namely, the destruction of al QaedaÂ's terrorist infrastructure and the removal of the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The author emphasizes several distinctive achievements in this war, including the use of precision air-delivered weapons that were effective irrespective of weather, the first combat use of Predator unmanned aerial vehicles armed with Hellfire missiles, and the integrated employment of high-altitude drones and other air- and space-based sensors that gave CENTCOM unprecedented round-the-clock awareness of enemy activity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4053-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. [Map]
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xxx)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxxv-xliv)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    On September 11, 2001, on a clear morning that will be forever remembered in American history, four jetliners—two Boeing 757s and two Boeing 767s, all on scheduled transcontinental flights from the East Coast and each fully laden with fuel for its coast-to-coast trip—were commandeered by radical Islamist terrorists almost simultaneously after their near-concurrent departures from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C., at approximately 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Upon being seized by the terrorists, the four aircraft were promptly turned into what would soon become de facto weapons of mass destruction against the United States and its citizens.


  10. CHAPTER TWO A Nation Girds for War
    (pp. 13-72)

    As the initial shock and outrage triggered by the attacks of September 11 gave way to a more focused determination on the part of the nation and its leaders, the first inklings of the administration’s eventual counteroffensive strategy began to emerge. The Bush administration’s first task was to comprehend more fully what, in fact, had happened that day and to characterize it convincingly to the American people and to the world to lay the groundwork for an effective response. The tone of the administration’s unfolding approach was set by President Bush himself the first day after the attacks. The president...

  11. CHAPTER THREE The United States Strikes Back
    (pp. 73-134)

    When the planning for Operation Enduring Freedom first began even before the smoke from September 11 had fully cleared, CENTCOM, by the admission of its own leaders, knew little of a military nature about Afghanistan. Before that time, its attention had been focused elsewhere in Southwest Asia, most notably toward Operation Southern Watch (OSW) and associated Iraq-related concerns. As then–Lieutenant General Charles Wald, the first Combined Force Air Component Commander (CFACC) for Enduring Freedom, later recalled, “we didn’t know much” about the enemy going into the planning process.¹ Once tasked to come up with a plan against the Taliban...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR A Shift in Strategy
    (pp. 135-162)

    The capture of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul by Northern Alliance forces, aided decisively by American air power working in close harmony with allied SOF teams, was a major breakthrough.¹ Indeed, progress in the campaign had accelerated so far ahead of U.S. expectations that General Franks was moved to consider a substantial reshaping of CENTCOM’s strategy. A senior Pentagon official remarked in this regard that “this has moved so fast, we have to step back and review where we go next.” Another spokesman added, in a similar vein, that “given [recent] developments, it’s time to take stock.”²

    Although the rout of the...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Operation Anaconda
    (pp. 163-246)

    After two months of relative quiescence following the fall of the Taliban and the installation of the interim Karzai government, U.S. ground forces met their fiercest test of the war in a bold attempt to encircle and capture or kill al Qaeda fugitives through an offensive that came to be called Operation Anaconda. This planned push into the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan was to be the first and only substantial combat involvement by conventional U.S. ground troops in Enduring Freedom. It began in a sparsely populated valley that lies between the lower Arma mountain range and the higher, snow-covered...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Distinctive Aspects and Achievements
    (pp. 247-292)

    Even before the Enduring Freedom air war was largely over, one account in early December 2001 described the precision bombing that had brought down the Taliban as possibly “the most significant victory for air power since before the 1991 Gulf War.”¹ That characterization overreached not only because Desert Storm was a more historic air power achievement than was CENTCOM’s Afghan success, but also because the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda was not a victory by air power alone.² It would have been entirely appropriate, however, to conclude that Operation Enduring Freedom constituted a SOF-centric application of joint air...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Problems in Execution
    (pp. 293-336)

    By every measure that matters, the first phase of Operation Enduring Freedom from October 7, 2001, through March 2002 was a resounding success as far as it went, considering that CENTCOM’s combat involvement in Afghanistan continues as a lower-intensity counterinsurgency effort and that the allied struggle against residual Taliban forces attempting a rearguard comeback remains far from over. Never before in modern times had the United States fought an expeditionary war so far removed from its base structure. The tyranny of distance that dominated the campaign redefined the meaning of endurance in air warfare and was an unprecedented test of...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusions
    (pp. 337-370)

    Operation Enduring Freedom was the first major war of the 21st century. It also was a defining moment for the still-nascent presidency of George W. Bush. Its outcome in bringing down the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda’s terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan validated the president’s decision to avoid leaping into a precipitous response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, even though the initial inclination, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld noted early on, had been to lash out reflexively.¹ Instead, the Bush administration laid the groundwork for retaliation systematically and carefully, exercising in the process whatThe Economistcalled “considerable...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 371-411)