- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

Task Force 121, the secret manhunting unit formed for the war on terrorism, is a blend of warriors, aviators, CIA officers and deep-cover intelligence collectors who nabbed Saddam Hussein and now hope to grab Osama bin Laden.

“This is tightening the sensor-to-shooter loop,” said a senior defense official. “You have your own intelligence right with the guys who do the shooting and grabbing. All the information under one roof.”

The Pentagon refuses to discuss the group’s makeup. Its members in Afghanistan and Iraq avoid reporters. New information was obtained through interviews with knowledgeable defense officials.

Elements of 121 have moved from Iraq to Afghanistan for a U.S. spring offensive, named “Mountain Storm,” against Taliban and al Qaeda fighters now reorganizing in Pakistan. If the flushing action pinpoints bin Laden, who is believed to be moving in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, Task Force 121 would likely infiltrate the country and try to kill or capture the terrorist who orchestrated the September 11 attacks.

Task Force 121’s composition includes four major elements:

• Grey Fox, a deep-cover organization based at Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia. Members specialize in spying and intercepting communications. They carry hardware that can tap into electronic-eavesdropping satellites and that can splice fiber-optic cables.

Grey Fox maintains a fleet of aircraft at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. On occasion, members enter countries on “non-official cover” using assumed identities.

Created principally to combat international drug smugglers, Grey Fox has turned out to be the perfect unit for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s demand for “actionable intelligence” to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives and other terrorists.

The Army once maintained Grey Fox, but after September 11 the Pentagon shifted direct control to Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Fort Bragg, N.C. Ultimately, Grey Fox reports to U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.

Although officials still refer to the intelligence unit as Grey Fox, a defense source said its code name was changed during the war on terrorism. The source asked that the new designation not be reported. Grey Fox has operated under a number of different code words. In the early 1990s, for example, it was called “Capacity Gear.”

• JSOC: This is the headquarters for an elite 800-member group of Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs who specialize in counterterrorism. Left mostly on the shelf pre-September 11, JSOC is today the most active it has ever been.

JSOC was the bulk of Task Force 11 in Afghanistan that hunted bin Laden, Mullah Mohammed Omar and other high-value targets. It then reinvented itself as Task Force 121 in Iraq. Sources say it’s likely the task force will take on a new designating number now that it is back in Afghanistan.

JSOC and Grey Fox make up the “black” world of special operations. The “white” units — which operate more publicly — include Green Berets and civil-affairs officers.

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