Mission Command Principles in Operation Anaconda

Operation Anaconda, which took place in Afghanistan’s Shahikot Valley in March 2002, was a challenging combat fought in steep mountainous regions under severe weather conditions (Kugler, 2007). The conflict resulted in American success at the expense of eight American military soldiers dead and more than 50 injured (Kugler, 2009). However, the battle’s challenging beginning stages give insights into how to plan, prepare, and supply US forces for future combined overseas deployments, as well as how to promote change. Mission command is often used to combine the skill of management with that of discipline and control. It handles the essence of missions by implementing tactical and operational concepts, which are carried out through the warfighting tasks and facilitated by the command structure.

According to the case study of Kugler (2007), even though the original combat strategy underwent severe challenges, it was able to achieve success through operational adaptability under fire. Operation Anaconda demonstrated that, while driving enemy troops out of the highlands might be arduous, it was still possible. How issues emerged and were addressed demonstrated the need for preparation for combined networked operations with air forces rather than depending just on weakly equipped ground troops to complete difficult tasks. The experience also demonstrated that in an information age with complicated battle plans, ground troops must be well-armed, particularly while performing dispersed missions.

The first mission command principle that can be seen from Kugler’s (2007) narration is the establishment of the unity of command and common vision. Joint military exercises with a strong mix of all system components and SOF should be the standard for overseas battles. Kugler (2009) noted that unity of command was required, as was a fully equipped combined C2 organization with powerful networking and interoperable resources. Additionally, the objective of the common vision was for commanding officers, staff members, and united operation allies to have a shared knowledge of their area of operations, the mission’s aim, issues, and solutions.

Grant’s Orders to Sherman, a letter of command from Grant to Sherman, is a superb illustration of effective collaboration and common vision. The correlation between the two demonstrates a grasp of the full operating context (Kugler, 2009). General Sherman responds to General Grant, explaining his understanding of the instructions and their intent (Kugler, 2009). The leaders of the United States forces did not originally establish this level of mutual agreement. Mostly because of the multi-head command and control and insufficient time to establish appropriate strategies for issues that may arise.

The Pashtun army did not have a common view of the significance of their involvement in the mission. They were not adequately trained in the sort of combat they were charged with carrying out. The army lacked an awareness of the overall perspective and how critical they were to the operation’s success (Kugler, 2007). Here, the information had to be a valuable tool that must have been collected, explored, enhanced, disseminated and preserved (Information as an element of combat power, 2021). However, due to disagreement on the visions, the army did not have an opportunity to use any valuable information and, as a result, coordinate actions.

As can be seen from the above, it is vital to adopt a coordinated action plan. This principle can be seen in situations, when current orders no longer suit the circumstance, or when unanticipated possibilities or dangers occur (ADRP 6-0: Mission command, 2019). Precise danger estimations, well-crafted joint combat tactics, and collaboratively produced reactive strategies for unforeseen events are all required since they can be the difference between defeat and victory. While these findings are valid for almost all fights, Anaconda sheds light on their continued relevance in the Information Age (Kugler, 2007). Anaconda demonstrates how flaws in early intelligence assessments and tactical planning may have far-reaching consequences on the battleground.

The Pashtun army lacked coordinated action by neglecting to respond when unexpected dangers came. United States troops, on the other hand, demonstrated mission command by adjusting to the circumstances and acting when unexpected dangers arose (Kugler, 2007). The goal of the American soldiers was to protect the area’s exit points. They were ultimately able to achieve the last target after a week of severe, fierce warfare. As per Kugler’s description (2007), on the second day, American troops changed their initial strategy to one that included massive air attacks on the area’s eastern borders to aid the United States, army troops. The required modifications were made as a result of this response, and the tide of the war quickly shifted in support of the U.S.

The last principle involves a sense of trust and is used to establish successful teams. The US had gained the assistance of allied countries as well as critical logistical support from the Northern Alliance (Kugler, 2007). The United Islamic National Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan demonstrated a successful partnership that could be relied on to carry out crucial tactical and operational warfighting functions. Throughout Operation Anaconda, it can be noted that the Afghan forces were not similar to the Northern Alliance, but were rather a small, inexperienced Pashtun organization. Kugler (2007) found that United States soldiers had not built confidence in the Pashtun army to form a solid team. The expectation was that this army would produce similar results to the Northern Alliance.

Unfortunately, the Pashtun army proved to be vastly inept in contrast to its Northern Alliance competitors. They lacked the motivation and aptitude to surmount alterations in their operational environment if given the opportunity (Kugler, 2007). The army was indeed authorized to execute their activities however they saw fit. A deeper shared agreement between the American army and the Pashtun army would have assisted in giving them more control of their essential part in the operation.

Hence, Operation Anaconda which took place in Afghanistan in 2002 might serve as a perfect example of perfect task execution as well as mistakes that can help eliminate such tactics in other military operations. Among the most notable mission command principles are an established unity of command and common vision, the adoption of coordinated action, and a sense of trust among the team members. In the examples mentioned above, it can be seen that the Pashtun army lacked the listed successful mission command principles. As a result, the American army had an advantage due to the non-Afghan army’s lack of trust, poor cooperation, and disagreements.


ADRP 6-0: Mission command. (2019). Department of the Army.

Information as an element of combat power. (2021). The Lightning Press.

Kugler, R. L. (2007). Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan: A case study of adaptation in battle. The Center for Technology and National Security Policy.

Kugler, R. L., Baranick, M., & Binnendijk, H. (2009). Operation Anaconda: Lessons for joint operations. The Center for Technology and National Security Policy.

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