The case study titled "Operation Anaconda" provides an account of the U.S military battle strategy during the war against the Taliban. The case study is based on the memoirs written by U.S Central Command Commander General Tommy Franks titled American Soldier. The objective of the operation was to weed out the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces that had retreated at the Shahikot Valley, in Eastern Afghanistan in March 2002. Initially, the battle plan was designed for three-day light combat, but it lasted for seven days necessitating for the change of approach after encountering heavy resistance. The success in battles heavily depends on the efficiency of organizational management. There was a lack of command structure and communication between Joint Forces in Operation Anaconda.
To begin with, the commanders needed extreme support from the Joint Forces. In the original plan, the commanders were convinced that they would quickly overrun the enemy forces through an entire ground force. The plan was mostly premised on the idea that the Al Qaeda fighters were hiding in the valley and they would try to flee once attacked (Kugler, 2007). This presumption misled the commanders while setting the objectives and the strategy for achieving it. The commander's goal was corner the fighter in the valley by having an advance attack into the valley while surrounding the area. In this plan, the commanders relied heavily upon ground forces from the U.S. Army, Special Operation Forces from other countries and Afghanistan Friendly Forces and the air force was to play only a minor role initially bombing strategic points (Kugler, 2007). Therefore, the air force was mostly left out of the plan and just came in not involved to react to a failed ground forces led plan. Hence, it took time to establish collaboration between the two authorities.
Furthermore, the number of the Taliban fighters and their firepower was grossly underestimated, which led to the deployment of the limited workforce on the ground, air, and back up. Since wars are won through strategic mass, this component was lacking. Firstly, there were few American soldiers to deploy. The outset the U.S. military strategically wanted to keep a small force within Afghanistan to keep a low profile. Therefore, the soldiers had to be assembled from different battalions such as the 10th Mountain Division and 3rd Brigade who lacked a seamless working relation (Kugler, 2007). Additionally, the plan had to rely on Afghanistan forces who were ill-prepared and eventually abandoned their role. More so, the U.S combined force lacked the necessary war equipment like vehicles, airplanes, armor, and heavy artillery (Kugler, 2007). The Afghanistan operation forces had been sent without tanks or heavy artillery to maintain a low profile but were met by massive firepower from the Al Qaeda militants. Therefore, form a management point, operation Anaconda lacked the necessary logistical resources to achieve its objective.
Secondly, the commanders stepped on an unfamiliar battlefield. The location did not have enough space, and they had a valley terrain that highly favored the Taliban fighters who were more averse to the area. In the planning phase, the coalition forces thought the militants were hiding there and would quickly abandon camp. However, it turns out that the local military groups had previously repulsed the Soviet army from the same area. The terrain was rugged, high altitude, and the weather cold and foggy making attacks complicated (Kugler, 2007). Moreover, the Taliban had already taken vantage points on the ridge that enabled them to attack the advancing Afghanistan forces and the Special Operation Forces being dropped by the helicopters (Kugler, 2007). Since the valley was a mere five miles long, there was a risk of aircraft collisions and this limited aircraft smiles. The hammer and anvil plan backfired when the Afghanistan forces neglected the blocking of critical routes which endangerment U.S infantry forces.
Partly, poor coordination of resources is to blame for the program since communication breakdown led to friendly the Afghanistan forces receiving friendly fire and lacking air force backing which demoralized them. Lastly, the allocated time expected to fight was beyond measure. In organization management, time is a resource that requires proper planning and allocation. Due to their unfamiliarity with the terrain and incompetency of the drivers, the transport logistics stalled when the lorries taking the advance soldiers to seal the battleground broke down (Kugler, 2007). The delay encountered interfered with the ideal set time to occupy the strategic positions. Secondly, having underestimated the enemy's firepower, the helicopters initially times to offer backup firepower for two and half hours were damaged within ninety minutes (Kugler, 2007). Besides, the terrain allowed the militants to spread and hide in the valley and ridges, and this dragged the battle for more than the three anticipated days.
Finally, there was poor communication among commanders. The Joint Forces had barriers in communicating with each other. The miscommunication resulted in the attack of the Afghanistan Friendly Forces by U.S. military that made the force commander recall his soldiers sending the plan into disarray (Kugler, 2007). During the battle, there were instances where the air commanders over-ruled the requests from ground commanders for airstrikes where they felt the criteria for authorization was not met. On their part, ground commanders felt that their position empowered them to set new rules of engagement. Poor communication also hindered coordination between coordinate and guide attacks between air and ground troops.
Additionally, there was a failure in the gathering and assessment of intelligence. In the planning stage, the coalition forces estimated the Taliban fighter to be about 200-300 while in actual sense they were 700-1000 (Kugler, 2007). Besides, they were heavily armed than anticipated with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns rather than simple rifles. Therefore, there was a mismatch in resource allocation for the task as the benchmarks were flawed. It also emerged that the four villages on the floor of the valley had less than the 800-1000 Afghan to prevent the forces from heavy fighting for fear of civilian casualty (Kugler, 2007). Finally, there was a gap in control of command since the commander who took over did not have full control over all command forces. The overall operation commander, General Hagenbeck only had authority over the U.S infantry forces, and he had no control over the Special Operation Forces, the Air Force, and Navy, Marines or the Afghanistan forces (Kugler, 2007). This approach created many centers of power leading to communication and coordination breakdown.
From the analysis, the lack of command structure and communication between coalition forces was responsible for the initial failure in Operation Anaconda. The operation objective was to overrun Al Qaeda operatives occupying the Shahikot valley in Afghanistan through a joint force. The commanders needed support from a combined ground and air force to win the battle yet there limited involvement of all command forces, few workforce, and minimal firepower. More so, the plan was complicated by the unfamiliar rough terrain giving the militant advantage and delays in the operation schedule. Besides, the was poor communication between the coalition commanders, misleading intelligence, and failure to have a commander with overall authority. Progressively, the success of a warfare expedition will depend on strategic planning for human, material and time resources, proper coordination of tasks and communication.
Kugler, R. (2007). Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan: A case study of adaptation in battle. Center for Technology and National Security Policy. Retrieved from http://ctnsp.dodlive.mil/files/2006/12/Case-5-Operation-Anaconda.pdf
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