Operation Geronimo and Presidential Legal Authority

Topic: International Law
Words: 1662 Pages: 6


After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, when three planes operated by terrorists crashed into the skyscrapers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon building. Moreover, the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania, presumably aimed at the White House or the Capitol, the US authorities demanded that the Taliban extradite Bin Laden. The refusal to extradite the terrorist was the reason for the launch of the US anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. However, despite the overthrow of the Taliban regime, Bin Laden could not be arrested. He continued his active political activity, constantly appearing on television with new threats against the United States and its allies. After the terrorist attacks, the US Congress adopted a resolution authorizing the use of military force against terrorists. It allows the US President to use the necessary and appropriate forces against those states, organizations, or individuals who took part in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Obama’s actions on the use of force are justified based on this resolution and on international law, enshrined in treaties and laws of war.

Internal Legislation

Congress gave the Commander-in-Chief the right to employ force against those responsible for the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, after that tragic day. The President might order the National Command Authority to employ force against Al Qaeda, including Bin Laden and other members, in accordance with the constitutional framework (Savage, 2015). The United Nations and NATO then issued further international permits (Wallace, 2012). The fundamental international concept of a nation’s inherent right to self-defense, codified in Article 51 of the UN Charter, was overlaid in this permission to employ force (Schaller, 2015). Domestically, a Presidential decision to assassinate Bin Laden as an enemy was unquestionably supportive of the authorized use of force. The President is required by law to share these results with the congressional leadership.

After the CIA received information about bin Laden’s whereabouts, there was no unity in the US leadership on the question of how to destroy him. The initial plan to launch a bombing attack using bombers was rejected in order to minimize possible civilian casualties (Schaller, 2015). Thus, this reflects the idea that the investigation has been conducted for quite a long time, which indicates that Congress has been notified of the intentions to conduct the operation (Savage, 2015). The organizers of the operation had no choice but to stop at the riskiest option — a ground operation by special forces. According to the Secretary of State, such decisive actions could, in the worst case, result in a direct military clash between American Navy seals and the Pakistani army (Savage, 2015). Based on various aspects of the legislation, it should also be noted that this operation was carried out with the presence of a particular right in the United States. The existing prohibition does not prohibit this murder on murder in Presidential Order 12333, which was signed in 1981 (Govern, 2012). This operation was a military action in the current armed conflict between the United States and Al-Qaeda, and it is not prohibited to kill specific leaders of the enemy forces.

International Law

Military necessity, proportionality, and distinction or discrimination are three criteria that had to be followed by the Special Forces when they entered the facility in order to use the force that had been authorized. In order to advance the military goals of the international community and the United States against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and international terrorism, Bin Laden had been labeled a hostile target, making it militarily vital to confront him (Govern, 2012). The amount of force employed by the Special Operation Forces when they entered Bin Laden’s bedroom was proportionate to the threat posed by those within (Schaller, 2015). Weapons were reportedly near Bin Laden, who appeared to show no signs of giving up. It was a proportionate response to the threat Bin Laden posed to the Special Forces to engage the legitimate target with the authorized small weapons (Wallace, 2012). Thus, it is worth noting that the proportionality principle was met.

On the other hand, it is necessary to analyze the situation in which the United States was forced to invade a sovereign state. International law on armed conflicts and the UN Charter allows a foreign government to conduct a military operation on the territory of another country if that country itself is not capable and is not ready to deal with the problem (Govern, 2012). The incident was permissible according to the norms of international law as a permitted use of force in the armed conflict between the United States and Al-Qaeda and as a legitimate action in self-defense, given that bin Laden was planning additional attacks.

Whether or not they consistently take action, Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters who directly participate in a series of long-term armed strikes and who travel into and out of Afghanistan from Pakistan are directly, continuously, and actively participating in hostilities in this country. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has acknowledged that these non-state combatants can also be classified as members of organized armed organizations of people whose primary purpose is to engage in hostilities actively (Schaller, 2015). They belong to an organized armed organization that engages in the ongoing conflict, making them a target.

Aspects of the Operation

The Obama administration decided not to include Pakistan in Operation Geronimo because of the secrecy required to ensure the operation’s success and the history of cooperation between the ISI and the Al-Qaeda network. As a result, Pakistan was unable or unwilling to neutralize the threat posed by Bin Laden. The United Nations, NATO, the European Union, and other international organizations expressed strong support for the raid on a global scale (Wallace, 2012). These organizations also questioned Pakistan’s role in aiding Bin Laden’s hiding, and their backing demonstrated that President Obama had the legal right to order and carry out Operation Geronimo inside Pakistan’s borders without the permission of the Pakistani government (Wallace, 2012). The fact that no people in the immediate region were hurt by the operation further contributed to the international community’s support. This can be linked to Obama’s emphasis on following international human rights legislation throughout the Operation Geronimo planning and approval procedure.

US President Barack Obama and members of his cabinet watched the course of the special operation from the White House via video link. The CIA and the Pentagon submitted three methods of neutralizing bin Laden: bombing the facility from the air, a targeted strike from a drone, and a special forces operation (Govern, 2012). As a result, they settled on the latter option since the American leadership allegedly did not lose hope of taking the terrorist alive and putting him on an exemplary trial. This fact reflects the desire of the country’s leadership to comply with all necessary measures to capture a terrorist within the framework of international law (Wallace, 2012). In addition, it is worth taking into account the fact that more straightforward methods of elimination were rejected but contained risks to victims from the civilian population. In this case, attention can also be paid to the moral aspect, which corresponded to reality requirements, and the operation was planned in sufficient detail.

Human Rights

Human rights concerns were taken into account during Operation Geronimo, along with the international rules governing sovereignty. Several tactics were taken into consideration during the initial planning stage to counter the threat posed by Bin Laden (Schaller, 2015). One of the decisions strongly considered was to attack the complex from the air. Nevertheless, because of how the facility was built, the ordnance required to eradicate the danger completely was also anticipated to kill or hurt more than a dozen local Pakistani residents (Schaller, 2015). This danger led to the decision to switch to an on-the-ground attack by U.S. military forces, which increased the operation’s post-operational legal standing.

Additionally, various human rights organizations and institutions questioned the legitimacy of the decision to authorize the killing of Bin Laden rather than a mission to capture him precisely in the wake of the operation. Given that this was a military operation against an enemy commander who would probably represent a significant danger to U.S. forces, they would have considerable latitude under international law to use lethal force (Wallace, 2012). Numerous sources have stated that Obama had the legal right to command a “capture or kill” mission and that the person carrying out the raid had the legal right to kill Bin Laden if he represented a threat to them (Schaller, 2015). Obama’s directives and execution were carried out in accordance with existing international human rights rules and with restraint to avoid injuring the local civilian population unnecessarily.


Summing up, it should be noted that President Obama had all the legal grounds for conducting the Geronimo operation. This is due to the fact that after the terrorist attacks on the territory of the United States, the legislation significantly expanded the powers of the president. This factor was reflected in the fact that Barack Obama had grounds to take the necessary actions in response to a potential terrorist threat. Thus, US legislation focuses on a preventive response to a potential threat to protect its own population and the sovereignty of the country. However, the main disputes regarding the legality of the operation lie in the field of international law.

It should be noted that Bin Laden was on the territory of another State. Accordingly, interference and penetration into the territory of Pakistan can be regarded as a threat within the framework of international law. However, it was found that there are a number of laws that fully justify the actions of the United States. The main one is the fact that there was the elimination of a certain person, the head of an organization in conflict with the United States. Thus, the impossibility of fulfilling the requirements on the part of Pakistan is a weighty reason for conducting an operation by its forces.


Govern, K. H. (2012). Operation Neptune Spear: Was killing bin Laden a legitimate military objective? Targeted Killings, 347–373. Web.

Savage, C. (2015). How 4 federal lawyers paved the way to kill Osama bin Laden. The New York Times. Web.

Schaller, C. (2015). Using force against terrorists ‘Outside areas of active hostilities’—The Obama approach and the bin Laden raid revisited. Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 20(2), 195–227.

Wallace, D. A. (2012). Operation Neptune’s Spear: The lawful killing of Osama bin Laden. Israel Law Review, 45(2), 367–377. Web.

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