Operation Anaconda. Lessons for Joint Operations
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC CENTER FOR TECHNOLOGY AND NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY
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Operation Anaconda, conducted in the Shahikot Valley of Afghanistan during early March 2002, was a complex battle fought in rugged mountainous terrain under difficult conditions. The battle ended as an American victory at the cost of eight U.S. military personnel killed and more than 50 wounded. But the difficult early stages of the battle provide insights for thinking about how to organize, train, and equip U.S. forces for future joint expeditionary operations and how to pursue transformation. Operation Anaconda marked the initial use of U.S. Army battalions performing ground maneuvers against enemy forces that required significant air strikes in supporting ways. At the time, the U.S. joint military presence and infrastructure in Afghanistan were not fully mature for these new operations. This situation, coupled with the congested and difficult terrain of the Shahikot Valley, played a major contributing role in the problems experienced. Analyzing Anaconda involves more than fingering a battle plan and initial command decisions that went awry. While an obvious lesson is that the U.S. military should strive for better performance in this arena, valuable additional lessons can be learned by identifying why this plan went awry, why initial U.S. forces operations were not as effective as desired, and how they rapidly assembled the assets and operations that ultimately brought victory. This study is not an official history of Anaconda but an analysis of lessons that can be learned from that battle and applied to future joint operations. This studys intent is not to criticize, but instead to offer observations for joint operations, multinational operations, and expeditionary warfare in austere settings.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics