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Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. A Case Study of Adaptation in Battle


Special operations forces and international partners engaged in the first major battle with Operation Anaconda in the war for Sustaining Independence. There were too many unknowns for the soldiers to account for in the difficult mountain environment. The operation failed because the forces had to contend with several challenges, including the difficult terrain. The essay employs Operation Anaconda as a case study to analyze the seven-state leadership principles, as the operation is frequently cited to illustrate their effectiveness and apply these theories in an investigation of possible factors in the failure of Operation Anaconda.

Principles of Military Leadership

It is largely accepted that commanding officers have traditionally used a hybrid of the two distinct command types: task command and particular command. Although mission command has been around since the 1980s, the current definition and design may be the most widespread. Powerful generals favor task commands because they allow them to circumvent the normal difficulties of conducting organized land operations (Greentree,2021). Military leaders wield authority and provide direction via mission orders, prioritizing using force to enforce discipline. According to the research of certain academics, commanders delegate tasks following their objectives to inspire agile, adaptable leaders and carry out coordinated ground operations. Therefore, the military instituted strategic leadership by harmonizing management theory and the operational procedure of warfare. Because it directs the military commander’s decision-making and orders, mission command is crucial to military operations (Stuart,2021). The following are some principles of mission command: In order to build effective teams, honesty and openness must be present. As a result, you must use your initiative as a disciple to establish a shared perspective and make the commander’s intent clear. Moreover, some academics argue that carrying out mission directives is essential, accepting realistic risks and showing proficiency. To facilitate understanding and application, mission commands distribute authority while preserving subordinates’ autonomy.

Mutual Trust

First, for every operation to be successful, there must be confidence between the various unified action partners, such as the commanders, the troops, and the inter-organizational and international partners. The United States military has been successful because of the trusting relationships established among its members. One of the most important places where teamwork is essential is battlegrounds. U.S. soldiers depended on air attacks from the backup team when the initial attack plan on the Taliban failed. The SOF involved in the operation had established a solid working relationship before setting out on this mission. When gathering intelligence on the Taliban, the United States military had to rely on reports from their Afghan allies (Greentree,2021). Due to the common nature of the mission objective, the two teams’ ability to put their faith in one another was crucial. The valley’s mountain ranges, rugged terrain, and secluded location made it ideal because they offered natural defenses and limited access to outside information. Human intelligence, signal intercepts, and aerial surveillance were used in planning the operation of the anaconda, which necessitated a high degree of trust on the part of the commanders and the many parties involved.

Risk Acceptance

The first stage in taking calculated risks during Operation Anaconda was collecting relevant data. Nonetheless, due to a lack of familiarity with information age war theories, it took much work for these commanders to collect intelligence. In addition, it is still being determined if the commanders employed risk assessment and risk control techniques to identify potential risks associated with the operation and develop strategies for mitigating those risks(Stuart,2021). As a military leader, you must collaborate closely with your troops to identify potential threats, determine their severity, and develop strategies to mitigate them. Commanders weigh the risks and potential rewards of continuing action to decide how much to invest. They weigh the importance of the outcome against the time they have to achieve it and any associated costs. Therefore, military leaders must balance protecting their troops and allowing them to accept and cope with the threats they face.

Shared Understanding

Challenges in communicating the operational environment, the purpose of an operation, and the difficulties and potential solutions to concerns to commanders, staff, and cohesive action partners are critical. Army forces are increasingly preparing, organizing, and synchronizing with increasingly integrated collaborators, including the armed forces, governmental and non-governmental agencies, and components of the business sector. The cohesiveness of commitments and subordinate activities is based on having a shared awareness of the situation and ensuring the flow of knowledge at the lowest possible cost. As a result, there can only be a successful centralized implementation with open communication.


The commanders, assistants, and teams involved in Operation Anaconda’s task command relied on their members’ strategic and technical knowledge to ensure the operation’s success. The readiness of an organization to implement task directives is proportional to the level of competence among all Troops. Preparedness, education, mission experiences, and professional development provide commanding officers and subordinates with the abilities necessary to carry out given responsibilities to a high degree. Every leader assesses the abilities of his team members and the group. This test aimed to ascertain the extent to which superior officers trusted their subordinates to carry out centralized task orders with an acceptable degree of risk (Stuart,2021). Technical standards can be met when a commander and his or her subordinates receive the knowledge and training they need from academic institutions and their respective units. Training that is rigorous and repeated helps soldiers and their superiors develop the unity, self-assurance, and common goals essential for accomplishing any mission.

Commander’s Intent

Subsequently, the commander’s intent is crucial in bringing together all the mission partners and laying down the necessary mission instructions. The mission’s desired outcomes are described in the commander’s intent, which serves as the primary focal point for all subordinate elements. There was no established joint commander to oversee operation Anaconda when it began. CENTCOM was the overarching command for the mission, with various subordinate commands acting as intermediaries for the transmission of orders (Kolinski,2021). The CFACC and the CFLCC were deputy commands coordinating air and ground operations. It was imperative for the mission’s success that, before the start of the conflict, a cohesive team under a single leadership had been established, and this team was helped by a CJTF (Coalition and Joint Task Force) commander. Due to their new, unified commander, the military and their Afghan friends received a much clearer and better idea of their responsibilities and how best to work together to accomplish their objective.

Disciplined Initiative

Assisting leaders with special skills can take calculated risks following their goals. Though subordinates can obey commands and persist with a plan even when those instructions and that plan are no longer suitable, we say that they are displaying conscious commitment. This can occur if the enemy suddenly moves (Stuart,2021). As a result, an alternate, potentially more fruitful course of action presents itself as an alternative to the original strategy. Subordinates must adjust to their new environment, follow their commander’s instructions, and report back to them as soon as possible.

Mission Orders

Commanding officers must provide task orders for the implementation of mission instructions. Task orders include directives that highlight the importance of accomplishing a certain task. They are written that way to keep subordinates’ attention squarely on the outcomes that matter. It is expected that subordinates will consider the context, the commander’s position, goal, and obligations when carrying out a mission. Subordinate commanders are tasked with carrying out missions given to them (Kolinski,2021). Guidelines for guaranteeing coordination and collaboration can be formed by making a commander’s objective and procedures explicit while still giving subordinate commanders the freedom to organize and carry out their actions as they see fit.


Generally, Operation Anaconda failed because of the numerous challenges U.S. ground troops and their Afghan allies faced. U.S. forces kept fighting despite losing faith in their Afghan allies and needing help to gauge the Taliban’s strength due to faulty intelligence accurately. In light of the betrayal by Afghanistan’s allies, it is more crucial than ever to adhere to the tenets of mission command, such as having a common understanding of all future operations, receiving precise mission instructions, demonstrating proficiency, and carrying out your superior’s wishes. Despite the initial failure of Operation Anaconda’s preparations, the U.S. soldiers responded fast. They used their battle judgment to attack the enemy and save the mission and the commander’s intent.


Greentree, T. (2021). Strategic failure in Afghanistan. Journal of Strategic Studies44(1), 117–140.

Greentree, T. (2021). What Went Wrong in Afghanistan? The U.S. Army War College Quarterly: Parameters51(4), 7–22.

Kolinski, V. (2021). Experiences at the strategic level of the Afghanistan operation.

Stuart, N. (2021). Military culture: Afghanistan-can we ever really discover the truth? Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter (2002)47(5), 20–21.


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