Command Principles of Operation Anaconda

1893 words (8 pages) Essay

8th Feb 2020 Military Reference this

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Abstract

Operation Anaconda, the first operation in Afghanistan that combined a multitude of American and Coalition units to attack an enemy stronghold, demonstrated a host of principles of the battle that are only experienced through action. Namely the continual effort of all individuals and units to readapt the approach to maintain the drive to the mission objective; in this case driving the Taliban out of Shah-I-Kot Valley.  From day one, the continual adaptation of a plan due to unforeseen circumstances is what drove the operation to eventual success.  The Afghan fighters did not make their advance through the valley due to a severe lack of moral. The bombing campaign that was significantly anticlimactic because the pilots were under the impression they had to cease their bomb runs due to a miscommunication of the chaotic radio communications.  One thing led to another, down the never-ending cascade of failure after failure with continual rewriting of the mission to improvise adapt and overcome.

Command Principles of Operation Anaconda 

The Operation was planned from head to toe; after an eventual agreement of the analysis of the information from the battlefront. Who, what, and where are the enemy bunkers and what are their capabilities?  Who, what, and where are the friendlies current, future transitional and future dug in positions? What are our capabilities?  Once all the questions have been answered, and all the answers have been challenged and thoroughly vetted, the Mission Plan is finalized.  However, all plans have multiple contingency plans for a reason.

Six Guiding Principles

The Six Principles of Mission Command are:

  1. Build cohesive teams
  2. Create a shared understanding
  3. Provide a clear commanders intent
  4. Exercise disciplined initiative
  5. Use mission orders
  6. Accept prudent risk (Army, 2012)

Upon analyzing Operation Anaconda through the eyes of the Mission Command Principles you will find that through the failing of the original and all the contingency plans the exercising of the Principles of the Mission Command ensured the eventual success of the Operation.

Build Cohesive Teams

Operation Anaconda is comprised of a combined 200 Special Operations Troops from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway, New Zealand; as well as Afghan Allies (Geibel, 2002).  An Afghan warlord named Zia Lodin is one of the main leaders of the Afghan allies that are fighting against, and have been fighting the Taliban for decades. (Kugler, 2007)  The cohesion of the fighting front when compared to the displaced, but still unified, enemy proved to be the eventual driving force that led the US to push the Taliban out of the valley.

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Create a Shared Understanding.

A Commander must ensure that the troops understand the whole scope of the battle.  From the big picture to how their tasks and preparation will accomplish the mission.  Understanding what all the different key players are tasked to perform will clarify what tasks and efforts have to be accomplished so the entirety of the mission will be successful.  Each Soldier and fighter must understand and trust each other and the supporting units.  Collaborative understanding is normally accomplished through clear, concise, and effective communication.  Any type of misunderstanding to include assumptions can lead to incorrect decisions made. 

Operation Anaconda is successful eventually because the commanders of all the units down to the individual Fighter knew and understood what the Commanders intent was, and what their objective was.  The US and Coalition Special Operational Forces (SOF) knew their role, as well as knew what the role was of the Close Air Support (CAS), the light Infantry Troops, as well as the roles of Central Command (CENTCOM), Coalition Forces Air Component Command (CFACC), and the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC).

Proved a Clear Commanders Intent.

A Commanders Intent is closely related to providing a shared understanding.  A Commanders intent is “a clear and concise expression of the purpose of the operation and the desired military end state that supports mission command, provides focus to the staff and helps subordinate and supporting commanders act to achieve the commander’s desired results without further orders, even when the operation does not unfold as planned (JP 3-0).” (Army, 2012)  The difference between the Commanders intent and a shared understanding is that shared understanding is viewed from the Soldier’s perspective to their left and right that their fellow Troops understand each other. Whereas a Commanders intent is how well the Soldiers and subordinate Commanders understand the top-down perspective.

Operation Anaconda was successful eventually and explicitly because the Commanders Intent was thoroughly understood, as well as the consequences for not achieving the end state.  There were fellow Fighters, Americans and Coalition that are in Afghanistan, in the Valley relying on you to get to the end state no matter what.  As long as the end state was always in mind, the Fighters pushed forward. On day one, the original mission failed due to a cascading turn of events.  Starting with a miscommunication that the pre-attack bombarding planes had from a ground controller to cease fire due to possible friendlies too close to one of the targets.  Which caused not enough of the enemy targets to be engaged, which caused the Afghan fighters to take an excessive loss to personnel and vehicles, which caused them to halt their attack.  All this caused the Taliban to surge in fighting spirit. On day one, as plan A was already off, the commanders regrouped and re-attacked using a heavy bombardment of Fighter and Close Air Support (CAS) planes.  After an exemplary performance by the planes, the enemy was dislodged from their strongholds and the Commanders Intent was met. (Geibel, 2002) (Grant, 2005)

Exercise Disciplined Initiative.

Exercising Disciplined Initiative is a compilation of the thoughts, perspectives, analysis, judgments, and actions that were required to alter the initial plan to a variation of the plan, including if required scrapping the plan altogether, so long as the Commanders Intent is met.  In these times it is important to listen to the Soldiers, NCO’s and Officers to get a comprehensive understanding of the root cause of the issues, to find doctrinal and creative plans to overcome the obstacles. (Army, 2012)

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Operation Anaconda is was fraught with obstacles, however, the command was flexible and took initiative to provide recommendations up the chain of command to complete the mission.  When the Afghan fighters were not able to get to their objective due to the excessive damage from the enemy, back up was sent from other units to reinforce them and give them the equipment and gun power required.  When a group of US Soldiers was inadvertently the target of a CAS attack due to bad target identification.  Backup was sent in to rescue them and reinforce their numbers so the attack can continue.

Use Mission Orders

“Commanders use mission orders to assign tasks, allocate resources and issue broad guidance. Mission Orders are directives that emphasize to subordinates the results to be attained, not how they are to achieve them” (Army, 2012)  Additionally they are given maximum freedom to accomplish the mission.

Operation Anaconda was successful because mission orders were used, and micromanagement.  When a Commander micromanages the Troops, the Troops will not provide input to the command as to why they are not achieving, and what they think needs to happen so they can.  It was originally determined that CAS was not going to be a big asset due to the terrain. However, due to bad intel and a gross underestimation of the number of enemy fighters and their equipment, the original plan went askew and it was recommended to switch to CAS providing the spear point to take out the enemy positions.  When the light Infantry Soldiers from the 101st and 10th Mountain identified that they need bombs from planes, that is what happened.

Accept Prudent Risks

Accepting risk is a decision that is always made all the time by everyone regardless if they make a good decision, or know all the options, or know enough of the consequences of their decision options to make the best one.  “Prudent Risk is a deliberate exposure to potential injury or loss when the commander judges the outcome in terms of mission accomplishment as worth the cost” (Army, 2012)

There was a lot of risk in Operation Anaconda, there were fatalities and wounded.  That is a risk that is assumed by the commander when they send the Soldiers to fight against the enemy.  The mission comes first, before life. However, it is prudent to plan for the least number of lives lost that will still achieve the mission.  The Hammer and Anvil taskings in the Operation had the risk of friendly fire if the coordination and timing were not accurate.  (Kugler, 2007)  CAS bombing taskings were slow and monotonous due to the risk of mid-air collisions due to the high elevation of the valley, as well as the high elevation of the surrounding mountains.  It physically limited the number of aircraft that could be around to drop bombs without dropping on other planes, and without running into each other. (Kugler, 2007)

Conclusion

In Conclusion the plans for Operation Anaconda were a failure, however, the Mission Command Principles are what kept the overall concept, and end state of the mission a success.  This operation serves as a great teaching tool on how to properly apply the Command Principles to a mission to ensure mission success.

References

Abstract

Operation Anaconda, the first operation in Afghanistan that combined a multitude of American and Coalition units to attack an enemy stronghold, demonstrated a host of principles of the battle that are only experienced through action. Namely the continual effort of all individuals and units to readapt the approach to maintain the drive to the mission objective; in this case driving the Taliban out of Shah-I-Kot Valley.  From day one, the continual adaptation of a plan due to unforeseen circumstances is what drove the operation to eventual success.  The Afghan fighters did not make their advance through the valley due to a severe lack of moral. The bombing campaign that was significantly anticlimactic because the pilots were under the impression they had to cease their bomb runs due to a miscommunication of the chaotic radio communications.  One thing led to another, down the never-ending cascade of failure after failure with continual rewriting of the mission to improvise adapt and overcome.

Command Principles of Operation Anaconda 

The Operation was planned from head to toe; after an eventual agreement of the analysis of the information from the battlefront. Who, what, and where are the enemy bunkers and what are their capabilities?  Who, what, and where are the friendlies current, future transitional and future dug in positions? What are our capabilities?  Once all the questions have been answered, and all the answers have been challenged and thoroughly vetted, the Mission Plan is finalized.  However, all plans have multiple contingency plans for a reason.

Six Guiding Principles

The Six Principles of Mission Command are:

  1. Build cohesive teams
  2. Create a shared understanding
  3. Provide a clear commanders intent
  4. Exercise disciplined initiative
  5. Use mission orders
  6. Accept prudent risk (Army, 2012)

Upon analyzing Operation Anaconda through the eyes of the Mission Command Principles you will find that through the failing of the original and all the contingency plans the exercising of the Principles of the Mission Command ensured the eventual success of the Operation.

Build Cohesive Teams

Operation Anaconda is comprised of a combined 200 Special Operations Troops from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway, New Zealand; as well as Afghan Allies (Geibel, 2002).  An Afghan warlord named Zia Lodin is one of the main leaders of the Afghan allies that are fighting against, and have been fighting the Taliban for decades. (Kugler, 2007)  The cohesion of the fighting front when compared to the displaced, but still unified, enemy proved to be the eventual driving force that led the US to push the Taliban out of the valley.

Create a Shared Understanding.

A Commander must ensure that the troops understand the whole scope of the battle.  From the big picture to how their tasks and preparation will accomplish the mission.  Understanding what all the different key players are tasked to perform will clarify what tasks and efforts have to be accomplished so the entirety of the mission will be successful.  Each Soldier and fighter must understand and trust each other and the supporting units.  Collaborative understanding is normally accomplished through clear, concise, and effective communication.  Any type of misunderstanding to include assumptions can lead to incorrect decisions made. 

Operation Anaconda is successful eventually because the commanders of all the units down to the individual Fighter knew and understood what the Commanders intent was, and what their objective was.  The US and Coalition Special Operational Forces (SOF) knew their role, as well as knew what the role was of the Close Air Support (CAS), the light Infantry Troops, as well as the roles of Central Command (CENTCOM), Coalition Forces Air Component Command (CFACC), and the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC).

Proved a Clear Commanders Intent.

A Commanders Intent is closely related to providing a shared understanding.  A Commanders intent is “a clear and concise expression of the purpose of the operation and the desired military end state that supports mission command, provides focus to the staff and helps subordinate and supporting commanders act to achieve the commander’s desired results without further orders, even when the operation does not unfold as planned (JP 3-0).” (Army, 2012)  The difference between the Commanders intent and a shared understanding is that shared understanding is viewed from the Soldier’s perspective to their left and right that their fellow Troops understand each other. Whereas a Commanders intent is how well the Soldiers and subordinate Commanders understand the top-down perspective.

Operation Anaconda was successful eventually and explicitly because the Commanders Intent was thoroughly understood, as well as the consequences for not achieving the end state.  There were fellow Fighters, Americans and Coalition that are in Afghanistan, in the Valley relying on you to get to the end state no matter what.  As long as the end state was always in mind, the Fighters pushed forward. On day one, the original mission failed due to a cascading turn of events.  Starting with a miscommunication that the pre-attack bombarding planes had from a ground controller to cease fire due to possible friendlies too close to one of the targets.  Which caused not enough of the enemy targets to be engaged, which caused the Afghan fighters to take an excessive loss to personnel and vehicles, which caused them to halt their attack.  All this caused the Taliban to surge in fighting spirit. On day one, as plan A was already off, the commanders regrouped and re-attacked using a heavy bombardment of Fighter and Close Air Support (CAS) planes.  After an exemplary performance by the planes, the enemy was dislodged from their strongholds and the Commanders Intent was met. (Geibel, 2002) (Grant, 2005)

Exercise Disciplined Initiative.

Exercising Disciplined Initiative is a compilation of the thoughts, perspectives, analysis, judgments, and actions that were required to alter the initial plan to a variation of the plan, including if required scrapping the plan altogether, so long as the Commanders Intent is met.  In these times it is important to listen to the Soldiers, NCO’s and Officers to get a comprehensive understanding of the root cause of the issues, to find doctrinal and creative plans to overcome the obstacles. (Army, 2012)

Operation Anaconda is was fraught with obstacles, however, the command was flexible and took initiative to provide recommendations up the chain of command to complete the mission.  When the Afghan fighters were not able to get to their objective due to the excessive damage from the enemy, back up was sent from other units to reinforce them and give them the equipment and gun power required.  When a group of US Soldiers was inadvertently the target of a CAS attack due to bad target identification.  Backup was sent in to rescue them and reinforce their numbers so the attack can continue.

Use Mission Orders

“Commanders use mission orders to assign tasks, allocate resources and issue broad guidance. Mission Orders are directives that emphasize to subordinates the results to be attained, not how they are to achieve them” (Army, 2012)  Additionally they are given maximum freedom to accomplish the mission.

Operation Anaconda was successful because mission orders were used, and micromanagement.  When a Commander micromanages the Troops, the Troops will not provide input to the command as to why they are not achieving, and what they think needs to happen so they can.  It was originally determined that CAS was not going to be a big asset due to the terrain. However, due to bad intel and a gross underestimation of the number of enemy fighters and their equipment, the original plan went askew and it was recommended to switch to CAS providing the spear point to take out the enemy positions.  When the light Infantry Soldiers from the 101st and 10th Mountain identified that they need bombs from planes, that is what happened.

Accept Prudent Risks

Accepting risk is a decision that is always made all the time by everyone regardless if they make a good decision, or know all the options, or know enough of the consequences of their decision options to make the best one.  “Prudent Risk is a deliberate exposure to potential injury or loss when the commander judges the outcome in terms of mission accomplishment as worth the cost” (Army, 2012)

There was a lot of risk in Operation Anaconda, there were fatalities and wounded.  That is a risk that is assumed by the commander when they send the Soldiers to fight against the enemy.  The mission comes first, before life. However, it is prudent to plan for the least number of lives lost that will still achieve the mission.  The Hammer and Anvil taskings in the Operation had the risk of friendly fire if the coordination and timing were not accurate.  (Kugler, 2007)  CAS bombing taskings were slow and monotonous due to the risk of mid-air collisions due to the high elevation of the valley, as well as the high elevation of the surrounding mountains.  It physically limited the number of aircraft that could be around to drop bombs without dropping on other planes, and without running into each other. (Kugler, 2007)

Conclusion

In Conclusion the plans for Operation Anaconda were a failure, however, the Mission Command Principles are what kept the overall concept, and end state of the mission a success.  This operation serves as a great teaching tool on how to properly apply the Command Principles to a mission to ensure mission success.

References

  • Army, H. D. (2012, May). ADRP 6-0 Mission Command. Retrieved from Army Pubs: https://armypubs.us.army.mil/docrine/index.html
  • Geibel, A. (2002, May). Military Review. Retrieved from March 2017 Online Exclusive Article: https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/Online-Exclusive/2017-Online-Exclusive-Articles/Operation-Anaconda-Shah-i-Khot-Valley-Afghanistan/
  • Grant, R. (2005). Operation Anaconda: An Air Power Perspective. Retrieved 5 4, 2019, from https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ada495248
  • Kugler, R. (2007). Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. Case Studies in National Security Transformation Number 5.

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