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Anaconda Operation Analysis


Anaconda was a military operation carried out by an international coalition led by the United States of America against the forces of the terrorist organization al Qaeda in Afghanistan in March 2002. One of the most significant and famous operations of the global war on terrorism. During the operation, the original plan did not work, but thanks to the coordinated command, the military campaign came to a realization. The seven basic principles of the command used include competence, mutual trust, shared understanding, mission orders, commander’s intention, discipline imitative, and risk acceptance. The success was largely based on its leaders and their approach to strategic planning and organization.

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The Principle of Mission Orders

After the fall of Kabul and the fortified complex of Tora Bora in November-December 2001, part of the al Qaeda militants retreated to the Gardez region in southeastern Afghanistan. American intelligence data in early 2002 showed that militants were regrouping in the Shahikot valley and preparing for active hostilities. It was decided by the United States command to start a strike. This action was done to destroy the grouping activity of enemies before it restarts (Ye, 2018). Planning, understanding the strategic importance of the moment, and adapting to the situation allowed the US military to gain a competitive advantage.

The Principles of Disciplined Imitative and Mutual Trust

Operation Anaconda was carried out from 2 to 18 March 2002. The original plan called for a “hammer and anvil” scheme aimed at the strategy in which US-loyal Afghan forces would enter the valley, and two American battalions would block all exits from it. This was planned to avoid the enemy’s encirclement. Serious miscalculations were made at the planning stage of the operation (Caruso, 2019). Al Qaeda fighters were ready for defense, which was not planned by the US Army.

The operation showed that difficulties and unexpected developments arose in the process. At the same time, the principle of trust was respected, and the US military continued to follow the commands. This made it possible to achieve the effectiveness of actions, despite the process. The commander trusted his military representatives, their abilities, and forces, and used them as a strategic resource. They, in turn, trusted their actions and lives, following the instructions of the commander.

The Principle of Risk Acceptance

The most famous event of operation “Anaconda” was the battle on the ridge of Takur Ghar on March 4. Due to the lack of coordination of their actions, American special forces units were ambushed three times a day at the Takur Ghar height, as a result of which two heavy transport helicopters were damaged and the third was destroyed. Further, using additional aviation forces, which played a very significant role in the operation, the coalition forces managed to enter the Shahikot valley and comb it (Caruso, 2019). By this time, most of the al-Qaeda operatives had either died or left the valley safely. Nowadays, the battle in the Shahikot Valley remains one of the largest battles involving US ground forces in Afghanistan.

The Principle of Competence

The US command declared Operation Anaconda a major success for the coalition, but this statement was ambiguously perceived in army circles. As a result of Anaconda, a lively discussion unfolded about why the aviation component of the coalition forces was not given due attention at the planning stage, which led to very great difficulties in the interaction of ground units with strike aircraft. The experience of this operation led to an improvement in the mechanisms of interaction between the Air Force and the US Army. Therefore, in operation Anaconda, the competence of the command staff and the use of resources remains in question (Greentree, 2021). However, the effective use of other principles of command no doubt made it successful.

The Principles of Commander’s Intent and Shared Understanding

The intentions of the command were brief, clear, and understandable, and were followed throughout the entire operation. The key task from beginning to end of the operation was the elimination of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. For Operation Anaconda, which captures a large number of resources, it was important to have a mutual understanding among its participants and leadership. Countries united and effectively used the opportunities provided. The joint choice of General Franks to lead a key operation while maintaining a multi-management structure for the entire process also proved to be an effective decision (Caruso, 2019). For the military forces that participated in the operation, mutual understanding and trust helped to adapt to unexpected situations on the battlefield.

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In conclusion, the well-coordinated actions of the US military, and adherence to the principles of command, made it possible to reduce the danger of the al Qaeda organization. The effective use of the principles of command allowed leaders to organize people, and appoint a commander for them, who could regulate processes. While Operation Anaconda has some ambiguous aspects, overall, it can be described as one of the most successful. High-quality command and coordination made it possible to adapt to the unexpected in the course of the operation and get sufficient results.


Caruso, D. (2019). Operation Anaconda. The Oral History Review, 39(2), 334-336. Web.

Greentree, T. (2021). What went wrong in Afghanistan?. The US Army War College Quarterly: Parameters, 51(4), 7-22. Web.

Ye, W. C. (2018). US military operations in Afghanistan: Sun Tzu’s view on opportunities and challenges. Advances In Natural And Applied Sciences, 12(7), 10-13. Web.

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