MIL Battle Analysis
Operation Anaconda Battle Analysis
In the mountainous Shah-i-Khot region south of the city of Gardez in Eastern Afghanistan, Operation Anaconda took place early March 2002. Operation Anaconda, to this day, stands as the largest reported ground action in the Afghan war. This 17-day battle led to eight U.S. casualties and over 50 wounded. Operation Anaconda is viewed as a success due to coalition forces being able to kill and root out several hundred Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, which left U.S. and coalition forces in control of the Shah-i-Khot Valley. Originally intended to be a three-day battle with light resistance, a seven-day battle ensued with intense fighting and was finally stopped on 18 March after 17 long days. The classic “Hammer and Anvil” battle approach which was utilized struggled through a number of unforeseen issues: initial intelligence reports, U.S. command structure, Afghan Forces, and ground-air coordination of air strikes/support. In the following pages, the cause and effect of these issues will be discussed as well as the impact they had on Operation Anaconda pertaining to certain principles of war.
The intelligence reports of the Shah-i-Khot Valley were faulty not due lack of effort. Several assets were used in trying to gather intelligence: human reconnaissance, aerial reconnaissance, and communication intercepts were all widely used. Several SOF ground reconnaissance teams were also getting as close to the valley’s floor as possible without being detected. Initial estimates of the enemy ranged from 100-1000 enemy fighters, but after arduous discussions and reports filed in, it was determined that a better estimate was 200-300 fighters with a larger civilian population numbering somewhere around 1000. This large civilian population complicated things by nullifying most attempts of heavy air strikes and support. The portrait for the upcoming battle portrayed that of a weak,...