The Coils of the Anaconda: America's First Conventional Battle in Afghanistan
University of Kansas
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Operation Anaconda was America's first conventional battle in Afghanistan. America's first battles did not always turn out as victories. Bunker Hill, Bull Run, Kasserine Pass, Task Force Smith, the Ia Drang Valley-all were hard-fought American fights which ended in retreat or a draw. Operation Anaconda was hardly a defeat. American forces entered a hostile fortified zone, fought the enemy to a standstill and then evicted him. US casualties were comparatively light. Enemy casualties were heavy. At the end of the fighting, the battlefield was in American hands and the enemy did not want to resume the contest. Indeed, the conventional enemy force was shattered. Operation Anaconda involved the forces of seven nations and US Armed Forces personnel from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. It was America's largest and longest light-infantry fight since Vietnam. It was the highest altitude land battle in US history. It was the Canadian Armed Forces first ground combat since the Korean War. Total allied losses were six Afghans and eight Americans killed and 53 Afghans and 86 Americans wounded. Taliban and Al Qaeda forces were smashed, suffering hundreds of casualties and limping away demoralized and disorganized. The battle was clumsy, but decisive. It was won by the combined efforts of American Armed Forces, Afghan ground forces, Canadian Light Infantry and special forces from a variety of nations. It was a pick-up fight that started off badly, but training, good will and professionalism pulled the operation together. It was Al Qaeda's last conventional fight and America's first conventional fight in Afghanistan. It broke the back of Al Qaeda and hastened their departure from the country. Lessons learned in air-ground coordination were successfully applied during the invasion of Iraq. As with any military operation or, indeed, human endeavor, Anaconda had its warts and problems. Operation Anaconda generated several books, most in support of an agenda. What makes this dissertation different is that it: covers the entire battle instead of the first three days; provides a more-balanced view of air power and ground power in the battle; provides a historic view of Afghanistan before the events of 9/11; provides a good enemy picture; identifies the culminating event of the battle and provides an analysis of what went right and what went wrong.
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- History Dissertations and Theses 
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