Legality of Operation Geronimo

Topic: International Relations
Words: 867 Pages: 3


Geronimo is the code name for the operation to kill Osama bin Laden. President Bill Clinton declared Osama bin Laden as public enemy number one (Woodward, 2018). Since that time, the CIA began to conduct a full-scale search for a man who until then was considered just a significant sponsor of extremists. It was possible to eliminate bin Laden almost 13 years later as a result of an operation in Pakistan. In 2010, for several months, intelligence monitored an al-Qaeda courier who regularly visited the same house (Napier III, 2021). The house was about eight times the height of the neighboring buildings, was surrounded by a thick fence with barbed wire, and the territory of the courtyard was divided into sections by walls. The entrances to the mansion were guarded, and even the terrace on the top floor was hidden from eyes by a two-meter fence. Initially, the house was built on the outskirts, and the neighbors have only built up the adjacent plots in recent years.

Operation Process

After a long planning and preparatory process, an action plan was formed. The operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden was scheduled for Sunday, May 1 (The Associated Press, 2022). The operation involved fighters from an elite unit of the U.S. Navy known as fur seals. They had no confidence that bin Laden would be inside when the mansion was stormed. The purpose of the operation was to build a complex of structures, in the center of which there is a large three-story house. Helicopters landed next to him, and several people got out of them and spoke to the locals in Pashto. People in the area, called Tanda Chokha, were told to turn off the lights in their houses and not go outside. Shortly after that, local residents heard the crackle of machine guns and fire from heavier weapons. There was a risk that the leader of Al-Qaeda would be warned about the operation, and he would again slip out from under the noses of the special services. However, as soon as the fighters entered the mansion, they sent the command an encrypted signal, “Geronimo,” which meant that the target was in the building. After 40 minutes, it was reported that the terrorist had been eliminated (Napier III, 2021). This marked a great moment in the history of the fight against terrorism.

The liquidation of Osama bin Laden, an al-Qaeda leader, was justified because he had no intention of surrendering to American commandos. The participants in the operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, had the goal of either killing or capturing bin Laden. However, the terrorist did not surrender and did not express his intention to surrender, thus, his killing was justified. In addition, the annihilation of bin Laden can be considered an act of national self-defense. Earlier, some observers expressed the opinion that the killing of bin Laden was unnecessary since he was unarmed and did not resist. The American side, in turn, said that the leader of the terrorists made threatening movements.

International law on armed conflict allows a foreign government to conduct military operations on another country’s territory if that state is unable and unprepared to deal with the problem. This operation was seen as self-defense and defense of the country. It is allowed to attack the enemy commander on the battlefield. The elimination of bin Laden can be called a step forward in achieving justice for the thousands of innocent Americans killed on September 11, 2001.

The U.N. Security Council reacted positively to the news of bin Laden’s death, which may also indicate that the operation was legal and carried out within the framework of international law. The official statement said that the U.N. “welcomed the news on May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden will never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism” (Dunlap, 2019). However, two U.N. Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement asking for more information about the circumstances of bin Laden’s assassination to investigate the legitimacy of the U.S. military operation in Pakistan. From the side of U.S. law, the operation had every right to take place. After the September 11 attack by Al Qaeda, Congress authorized the use of military force against terrorists. This means that the President of the United States can launch an operation against terrorist groups or countries at his discretion. It is not forbidden to kill specific leaders of enemy forces. The prohibition on killing also does not apply to killing in self-defense. The operation that killed bin Laden was legal. The task of the combatants was to capture or kill, and since, according to numerous reports, the group’s leader resisted, the preparation and killing of Osama bin Laden were justified and legal.


Having studied the available information regarding this special operation, it can be concluded that the planning and execution of Operation Geronimo was a completely legal act by the American government. President Obama did not violate any international treaties with such actions. It is also important that not a single international legal organization has declared that the elimination is illegal. The liquidation of such a dangerous terrorist has certainly benefited society and all the world’s efforts.


Dunlap, C. (2019). Yes, the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was lawful. Lawlife.

Napier III, W. (2021). Operation Neptune Spear: 10 year anniversary. Nellis Air Force Base. Web.

The Associated Press. (2022). Today in History: May 1, Americans hear of bin Laden’s death. AP News.

Woodward, C. (2018). AP fact check: Trump book didn’t foreshadow bin Laden attack. AP News.

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