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Operation Anaconda: Lessons for Joint Operations - Analysis of Complex Afghanistan War Battle, Problems in First Days, Intelligence Estimates, Integrating Air-Ground Operations, Rules of Engagement

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Operation Anaconda, conducted in the Shahikot Valley of Afghanistan during early March 2002, was a complex battle fought in rugged mountainous terrain under difficult conditions. The battle ended as an American victory at the cost of eight U.S. military personnel killed and more than 50 wounded. But the difficult early stages of the battle provide insights for thinking abo Operation Anaconda, conducted in the Shahikot Valley of Afghanistan during early March 2002, was a complex battle fought in rugged mountainous terrain under difficult conditions. The battle ended as an American victory at the cost of eight U.S. military personnel killed and more than 50 wounded. But the difficult early stages of the battle provide insights for thinking about how to organize, train, and equip U.S. forces for future joint expeditionary operations and how to pursue transformation. Intricate and exact details of the battle are hard to determine, as often is the case when participants have differing memories and insights. Post-facto observers derive differing interpretations from the same information, while newspaper accounts sometimes report wrong information about the particulars. Because "truth" is a function of one's angle of vision, this battle will be debated for a long time, and interpretations of its lessons will remain controversial.Anaconda did not conform to theories of information-age battles. It was conducted at a time when U.S. military operations in Afghanistan were undergoing a transition. Earlier, the U.S. ground presence had been limited largely to special operations forces, which worked with friendly Afghan units and helped spot ground targets for U.S. air strikes. By contrast, Operation Anaconda marked the initial use of U.S. Army battalions performing ground maneuvers against enemy forces that required significant air strikes in supporting ways. At the time, the U.S. joint military presence and infrastructure in Afghanistan were not fully mature for these new operations. This situation, coupled with the congested and difficult terrain of the Shahikot Valley, played a major contributing role in the problems experienced during Anaconda's initial days.Executive Summary * The Lessons of Operation Anaconda for Joint Operations * Setting the Stage: Why Anaconda Encountered Problems in the First Few Days * Lesson 1: Unity of Command and Joint Planning * Lesson 2: Intelligence Estimates and Battle Plans * Lesson 3: Integrating Air-Ground Operations * Lesson 4: Mission Orders and Rules of Engagement * Lesson 5: Training for Surprises * Lesson 6: Joint Operations at All Levels


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Operation Anaconda, conducted in the Shahikot Valley of Afghanistan during early March 2002, was a complex battle fought in rugged mountainous terrain under difficult conditions. The battle ended as an American victory at the cost of eight U.S. military personnel killed and more than 50 wounded. But the difficult early stages of the battle provide insights for thinking abo Operation Anaconda, conducted in the Shahikot Valley of Afghanistan during early March 2002, was a complex battle fought in rugged mountainous terrain under difficult conditions. The battle ended as an American victory at the cost of eight U.S. military personnel killed and more than 50 wounded. But the difficult early stages of the battle provide insights for thinking about how to organize, train, and equip U.S. forces for future joint expeditionary operations and how to pursue transformation. Intricate and exact details of the battle are hard to determine, as often is the case when participants have differing memories and insights. Post-facto observers derive differing interpretations from the same information, while newspaper accounts sometimes report wrong information about the particulars. Because "truth" is a function of one's angle of vision, this battle will be debated for a long time, and interpretations of its lessons will remain controversial.Anaconda did not conform to theories of information-age battles. It was conducted at a time when U.S. military operations in Afghanistan were undergoing a transition. Earlier, the U.S. ground presence had been limited largely to special operations forces, which worked with friendly Afghan units and helped spot ground targets for U.S. air strikes. By contrast, Operation Anaconda marked the initial use of U.S. Army battalions performing ground maneuvers against enemy forces that required significant air strikes in supporting ways. At the time, the U.S. joint military presence and infrastructure in Afghanistan were not fully mature for these new operations. This situation, coupled with the congested and difficult terrain of the Shahikot Valley, played a major contributing role in the problems experienced during Anaconda's initial days.Executive Summary * The Lessons of Operation Anaconda for Joint Operations * Setting the Stage: Why Anaconda Encountered Problems in the First Few Days * Lesson 1: Unity of Command and Joint Planning * Lesson 2: Intelligence Estimates and Battle Plans * Lesson 3: Integrating Air-Ground Operations * Lesson 4: Mission Orders and Rules of Engagement * Lesson 5: Training for Surprises * Lesson 6: Joint Operations at All Levels

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