Soldiers Without Uniforms: CIA Paramilitary Operations in Afghanistan

Date of Graduation

Spring 2007


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

William Van Cleave


The history of paramilitary operations conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been a long and controversial one. Having first been championed by William Donovan during World War II, the deployment of CIA paramilitary forces has been widely debated for decades. While some scholars have insisted that the CIA devote itself entirely to research and analysis, other have argued that it has been granted the appropriate political and legal mechanisms to engage in such operations. In addition, some observers may argue that all covert military activities be conducted exclusively by U.S. Special Forces. It remains imperative, however, for the United States to engage in missions that might not immediately suggest American involvement. U.S. Special Forces are required only to keep the nature of their operations classified, wereas CIA paramilitary operatives may be expected to conceal their identities altogether and thus blend seamlessly into a troubled environment. Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, President Bush authorized the CIA to engage al-Qaeda and, if necessary, kill Osama bin Laden. As a result, CIA operatives landed in Afghanistan with suitcases full of cash (in order to bribe local leaders), as well as highly sophisticated equipment. This operation, known as JAWBREAKER, thereby paved the way for U.S. military forces to enter the country. Although CIA officials have failed to replicate the same amount of success in Iraq, it is critical that they continue utilizing such operations in the future.


paramilitary operations, Central Intelligence Agency, Operation JAWBREAKER, Osama bin Laden, George Tenet

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Jason P. Moeller