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A Mission Unaccomplished: The Failure of Operation Anaconda

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Throughout many years of conflict and many trials and tribulations, we have discovered that the aspects of combat can consistently change depending on the location and our assets allowed. In this essay, I will provide all reasonings to why I think Operation Anaconda was set up to fail from the start and the major assets that we used to turn it around to be a successful mission. While the mission was an overall success the commander’s intent had many shortcomings.

The principle of mission command starts with competence, competence is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. The commanders did this by applying all their know knowledge to the mission. They started with battle plans of how the mission would be executed using all sources of intelligence they had.

They formed air support to assist the ground troops in overtaking the Shah Ikot Valley as well as reaching out to the local Afghan armies to provide support and assistance in blocking off escape exits.

The commander’s level of mutual trust was very high in Operation Anaconda, this was a multinational joint operation to include U.S forces, foreign special operations forces (SOF) as well as friendly Afghan ground forces. That mutual trust was necessary for U.S and coalition forces to have a strong cohesion to instill the “One Team One Fight.”

However due to the lack of training by the Afghan forces and the fact the U.S initial plan to bomb the Valley didn’t go as planned, the Afghan forces were preparing for an hour attack of bombs to be dropped on the valley but when only 3 bombs dropped, they started to feel demoralized and returned to their base camp to leave U.S troops to fight alone causing the mutual trust to deplete.

All troops on Operation Anaconda had a shared understanding of what this mission’s details were, each group had a certain job they were assigned to and understood that if they didn’t work as a team the mission would be less likely to succeed. They knew the valley terrain features as much as they could from the intel that was gathered. They knew the insurgent were embedded into the mountain and had numerous fighting positions throughout the valley.

Based on our past experiences with conflict, the commander’s intent focused on applying known tactics to complete a mission in a short time with little to no causalities. According to ADP 6-0 “no plan can account for every possibility, and most plans must change rapidly during execution to account for changes in the situation”. We have relied on the same battle tactics that we have used in previous wars that were deemed successful. There were many reasons for failure in Operation Anaconda due to time restraints, and correct intel of the Shah Ikot Valley. The commanders planned the operation the only way we as soldiers’ know-how with what they thought was going to be an effective plan.

With the lack of correct intelligence, the commanders had very little to go off while planning their battle operations. The area of the Valleys terrain features made it near impossible for any good overhead surveillance as well as the high altitudes in which the insurgents were in beaded. The insurgents had fortified fighting positions on and in the mountains to make the soldier’s job extremely difficult. Due to the lack of proper surveillance and intelligence, the commanders had very little understanding of what was in store for the troops who were charging the Valley. The initial war strategy suffered many setbacks and deficiencies due to incompetent intelligence information. 

Nobody wishes for failure while planning a mission but if it happens, we learn from our mistakes and use it for the next mission. This operation has helped set the example of future battles and showed that no matter how much planning you do things are always going to change and we must adapt and overcome.

The mission orders were set in place but due to many factors, they were not where they need to be to complete a successful mission. In a case study done by Kugler, Baraniak, and Benedick, they state “U.S. forces in battle require adequate mission orders, rules of engagement (ROE), and associated fire restrictions that give clear guidance and exert proper controls while providing force commanders the authority and latitude to execute their missions’ without these vital aspects of planning and proper procedure the mission will be less successful with a higher number of casualties.

The rules of engagement (ROE) changed during the battle due to the air support not being allowed non-emergency strikes and the fact that the General could only request airstrikes and not order them. Once the ROE was changed the battle began to be successful.

The definition of the disciplined initiative is “action in the absence of orders, when existing orders no longer fit the situation, or when unforeseen opportunities or threats arise” which is what happened in this mission. Once the Afghan counterparts abandoned the U.S troops they had to adapt and cover down on the areas so the insurgent would not run and evade the attack.

Air support placed a new ROE in place once they realized what kind of fighting the ground troops were up against and realized the original was not up to par. By addressing the new ROE and providing better air support, the ground troops can do what they do best and take control of the valley in the long run.

In any mission outside the wire, there is always a risk acceptance. The commanders knew that they did not have the best intel but decided to go along with the mission even after delaying some extra days. The combat team was not up to the full manning and insufficient number of mortars and munitions. Their tracking of enemy combatants was not accurate at all and was getting bigger after the fight began causing causalities to the teams below blocking the exit points

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A Mission Unaccomplished: the Failure of Operation Anaconda. (2023, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
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