Task Force 121

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Task Force 121
CountryUnited States United States of America
TypeUnited States Department of Defense special operations task force
RoleMulti-service force for apprehension of high-value targets
Part ofJoint Special Operations Command
Samir, an Iraqi-American military interpreter of Task Force 121 helped find Saddam Hussein by pulling him out of hideaway in December 2003.
House of Uday and Qusay Hussein in Mosul, Iraq destroyed by members of Task Force 121 in July 2003

Task Force 121 was a United States Department of Defense special operations task force. TF121 was a multi-service force from Joint Special Operations Command, made up of operators from the U.S. Army's Delta Force, 75th Ranger Regiment, and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the U.S. Navy's SEAL Team Six, the CIA's Special Activities Division, U.S. Air Force Combat Controllers, Pararescuemen, Tactical Air Control Party operators, and Special Operations Weather Technicians, the Aviation Tactics Evaluation Group (AvTEG), and the Joint Communications Unit. Two companies of armor from the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division provided armor support.


TF121 was a combination of the now defunct Task Force 5 and Task Force 20, which operated in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively. Acting on the apparent logistic redundancy of keeping two separate task force teams for Iraq and Afghanistan, General John Abizaid decided to combine both teams into a single streamlined force, forming the TF121.[1] The force was approximately 1,500 soldiers with its own support capabilities.[2]

Task Force 20's primary goal was to capture or kill "High-value targets" (HVTs), such as Iraqi Mujahideen leaders and former Ba'ath party regime members and leaders. Task Force 20 operators were directly involved in the 4-hour firefight between 101st Airborne soldiers and Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein. The two sons were killed in the shootout. The apprehending of the most wanted man in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, in Operation Red Dawn directly involved Task Force 121 operators and members of the Army's 4th Infantry Division.[3][4]

Task Force 20 was also involved in what the US military calls a tragic accident on 27 July 2003. At least three Iraqis were killed in western Baghdad's Mansour district, when US soldiers from Task Force 20 opened fire on cars that overshot a military cordon. The drivers apparently had missed the cordon when they turned into the area from an unblocked side street.[5]


TF121's primary mission was the apprehension of High Value Targets and was organized in such a way that it has a close relationship with intelligence personnel (CIA operators are an integral part of the unit) and has timely and unhindered access to any relevant data gathered by intelligence assets in the area. Such an option is invaluable to any Special Operations team, and especially so to one whose primary mission is hunting elusive fugitives whose hideouts change frequently and randomly.[6]

Many TF121 groups were assigned Special Forces CIRA (Communications Intelligence Reconnaissance and Action) operators with expertise in relevant fields. These operators work closely with the intelligence agencies tied to TF121 and work to pinpoint and identify HVTs aggressively.


On 21 July 2003, Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay were killed in a firefight with TF20 operators and soldiers from 101st Airborne. On the 13 December 2003, Operation Red Dawn netted HVT #1, Saddam Hussein. After intelligence narrowed down the target to two possible locations, TF121 coordinated the raid with 600 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team and Apache Troop 1-1 Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

Detainee abuse[edit]

According to an internal army investigation leaked to the Washington Post, Task Force 121 was responsible for the illegal abuse of detainees in secret interrogation facilities in Iraq.[7] In 2006, after the unit had changed its name to Task Force 6-26, a Human Rights Watch report recorded evidence of continued abuse, including beatings and waterboarding.[8]

Cultural references[edit]

  • Groove Games' Combat:Task Force 121[9]
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and 3 includes a top secret joint operations task force named "Task Force 141." The primary purpose of the video game's organization, as in its supposed real life counterpart, is to take on and either kill or capture high priority individuals. Unlike Task Force 121, it is a primarily multinational force.
  • The Colbert Report used Task Force 121 as an example of a "secret" task force in its television episode airing on 27 September 2010.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Urban, Mark. Task Force Black, p.63
  2. ^ John Pike (5 August 2003). "Secret task force is spearhead in hunt for Hussein". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  3. ^ Ann Scott Tyson (24 July 2003). "Anatomy of the raid on Hussein's sons". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 17 March 2009.
  4. ^ Urban, p.83
  5. ^ Vivienne Walt (4 August 2003). "Bitterness Grows in Iraq Over Deaths of Civilians". Boston Globe. Common Dreams. Retrieved 17 March 2009.
  6. ^ Urban, p.92
  7. ^ White, Josh (4 December 2004). "U.S. Generals in Iraq Were Told of Abuse Early, Inquiry Finds". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  8. ^ ""No Blood, No Foul": Soldiers' Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq". 23 July 2006. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  9. ^ Groove Media Inc.