Joint ConsiderationsSFC Matthew D. GrahamMaster Leader Course 03-18 JointConsiderationsIntroductionEven though military leaders and analystsregard Operation Anaconda as a success, commanders at all levels would havebeen more effective with proper joint considerations, especially in regards tothe planning process, clearly established command structure and unity command, regardlessof the fact that subordinate commanders executed excellent mission command inthe face of challenges. The battle tookplace in Shahi Kot Valley in the spring of 2002 and was the first battle of itssize since coalition force began operations in Afghanistan. There was more ordnance dropped in thatvalley during those two weeks than the coalition used in the previous fivemonths combined (Andres & Hukill, 2007). However, if Central Command (CENTCOM) hadproperly considered all aspects of operating in the joint environment, theoperation would have concluded in a much shorter time.
JointPlanning It is a critical aspect of fightingtoday’s wars and engaging today’s enemies, there cannot be mission success ifonly fighting in a single domain. Givenhow technology has advanced, and how the enemy has access to commerciallyavailable tools that can be used in a military capacity, all services must cometogether to pool their knowledge and expertise to ensure decisive victory. Whenthe U.S. first entered operations in Afghanistan, it had been several years sincethe Department of Defense (DOD) was last required to think about defeating anenemy in a joint way. This atrophiedskillset is why Operation Anaconda lasted near two weeks instead of theanticipated few days, and why the Air Force element was not as effective as itcould have been (Fleri, Howard, Hukill, & Searle, 2003). The U.
S. fights today’s wars in a complex,far-reaching, multi-domain operating environment (JP 3-0, 2001, p. IV-1, para.
2.a.). Today’s enemy is sophisticated,technologically perceptive, and agile with how they operate. It is a given thatU.S. military branches each have a different skillset that they bring to thetable.
If that were not the case, therewould be no valid justification for there to be more than one service. However, those capabilities do not matter,and we lose in that multi-domain environment, when we fail consider every skillinto the joint planning process. The air force component learned ofOperation Anaconda plan only two days before the operation began (Fleri, Howard, Hukill, & Searle, 2003). That was a failure on the part of thecommanders. The larger the organization,the more time you need to prepare to execute a new plan. Imagine how easy it is for a rowboat tochange from heading north to heading south, it can happen in a matter of secondsdue to its small size and only needing one or two people. Now imagine how much time it would take for anavy destroyer to make that same change in direction.
It would take ten-times as long, because thesize of the boat and the number of crew whom all have to understand the goaland work together to make it happen. That is similar to why the air force was not as effective as it couldhave been during Operation Anaconda. They were the destroyer, expected to make the same turn as a rowboat,because nobody was there during the planning process to explain that theyneeded significantly more time to meet the mission requirements.
As a result, commanders made sacrifices regardingcommunication and coordination, which kept the air force element from being aseffective as it could have been. The Army, Air Force, and SpecialOperations each had complex portions of Operation Anaconda; coming togetherearlier in the planning process would have made the operation more successful. The Joint Special Operations Task Force North(JSOTF–N) began the planning effort for Anaconda months before the executiontook place. Then the Combined ForcesLand Component Commander (CFLCC) reassigned the mission from JSOTF-N to the 10thMountain Division Headquarters element who continued planning for weeks. Eventhough all this planning took place for months, the 10th MountainDivision only incorporated the Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC)two days prior to the mission start date (Andres & Hukill, 2007).CommandStructure and Unity of CommandOperation Anaconda suffered from adisjointed command structure; essential command nodes for the various elementsof the fight were all in different geographic locations.
Without having a command and control elementpresent in the fight, or at least forward deployed, there are simply too manybarriers to effective communication. Ifcommanders made the brigade tactical command post the on scene command element,the operation would have succeeded much sooner. The Air Force is an incredibly valuableforce.
Properly incorporating them intothe plan and making it a truly joint operation would have reduced some of theconfusion and delays when the tactical controllers on the ground called in targets. Even if the Army commander was the leadelement, involving the CFLCC in the planning process increases the likelihood ofsuccess (Kugler, Baranick, & Binnendijk, 2009). Despite the challenges presented to thecommanders involved in Operation Anaconda, they had a great understanding ofmission command. MissionCommand”Mission command is all about empoweringsubordinates to exploit the initiative versus controlling compliance with aspecific directive,” (Perkins, 2007). Missioncommand is essential for commanders to adapt to the fog of war. It allows subordinate commanders and noncommissionedofficers (NCOs) to take advantage of situations as they arise and allow for themission to continue despite not having received guidance from higherheadquarters regarding a recent development. This can only happen if two things occur.
First, the senior commander must provide aclear intent and end state. Second, thesubordinate commander or leader must understand that senior commander’s intent.If both of those things have taken place, then those two commanders haveestablished a degree of trust that will allow for the concept of missioncommand. The senior believe that thesubordinate will complete the mission while the subordinate leader believes hehas the support of his or her senior commander to make the decisions necessary tocomplete that mission.Operation Anaconda was a success becauseof the fact that the U.S.
forces were able to exercise mission command and maketough calls despite the fact that the enemy forces were vastly larger thanintelligence reported and that they were in well-fortified fighting positionsand even called in reinforcements at a certain point. When the U.S. ground forces in Shahi Kot valleyrealized they were facing a larger and more determined enemy than expected,they exercised the concept of mission command and remained agile, took theinitiative, and adapted the tougher enemy than anticipated (Fleri, Howard, Hukill, & Searle, 2003).Conclusion Even though most regard OperationAnaconda as a success, and despite subordinate commanders properly executingmission command in the face of challenges, senior commanders should haveexecuted with proper joint considerations, especially in regards to theplanning process, and established a clear command structure and unity ofcommand. Fortunately, this was not acostly lesson for the U.S. military to learn from, Operation Anaconda willcontinue to serve as an example on how to exercise proper joint considerations.
References Andres, R. B.; & Hukill, J. B.
(2007). ANACONDA: A Flawed Joint Planning Process. Joint Force Quarterly, 135-140. Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States. (2001). Joint Operations. (Joint Publication 3-0). Retrieved from http://www.
dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp3_0_20170117.pdf Fleri, E.
, Howard, E., Hukill, J., & Searle, T. R.
(2003, November 13). Operation Anaconda Case Study. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education. Kugler, R. L., Baranick, M., & Binnendijk, H. (2009).
Operation Anaconda, Lessons for Joint Operations. Washington D.C.: Center for Technology and National Security Policy. Perkins, D. G.
(2017, August 17). A Story of Trust and Mission Command Video file. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gfcYKC7eXA