The Principles of Mission Command in Operation Anaconda


War is a violent contest between contending groups motivated by the disparity in ideological reasoning. Operation Anaconda was an organized invasion of U.S troops in Afghanistan to dismantle the label Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces. Unpredictable challenges are common during wars forcing military leaders to make rational decisions for the survival of the troops. Allied troops applied the Principles of Mission Command in mission Anaconda to raid a successful large-scale battle. The principles include competence, uniting a cohesive team through mutual assurance, sincere commander’s intent, mutual understanding, and adherence to mission directives, disciplined initiatives, and the acceptance of prudent risks. The principles of mission command were differentially applied in operation Anaconda to form a joint operation for success in the mission.

Challenges in Operation Anaconda

Initially, operation Anaconda was perceived as a small-scale battle with minimal conflict and easy defeat. The mission was intended to be accomplished in three days by capturing enemy forces and terminating their leadership in Shahikot Valley, eastern Afghanistan. “Hammer and anvil” attack strategy was purposed for operation Anaconda (Kluger, 2007). The intelligence gathered before the operation was deficient hence making the military leaders underestimate the risk of the battle. The intelligence precluded the valley as small and identified Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces as a joint force rather than two separate armies. However, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces turned out to be superior militia forces, and the geographic environment was punctuated with mountain ridges adequate for the enemy to apply guerrilla techniques. Understanding the enemy guides critical decisions such as resource allocation, operation strategy, and dissolution risks. Moreover, Afghan informers did not cover the valley as planned, leaving the American troops in desperation.

American soldiers were faced with unanticipated resistance and topography. At first, the command and control of the units were split into three divisions with independent resources and intelligence. The first approach to battle defied the principle of a cohesive team to create assurance in each other (Army Doctrine Publication, 2012). The basic planning of the operation lacked direction and had inconsistent commander’s intent. New recruit soldiers were deployed for the operation and portrayed a significant lack of discipline and arrangement. There was poor communication between the troops and poor management of the medical staff. The Coalition Forces Air Component Command (CFLCC) and Coalition Forces Air Component Command (CFACC) undertook the command functions. Communication and getting authorization from both commands were time-consuming and inefficient. Effective communication facilitates the collaboration of troops by aligning their actions successfully. Poor planning and organization characterized by misalignment of staffing, purpose, and direction led operation Anaconda to fail at first.

The Anaconda operation extended to seven days, and commanders started integrating cohesive trust through mutual trust. United operations and trust form the first principle of Mission Command to achieve more strength. The new environment was challenging, and the enemy’s strength was underestimated in the intelligence hence compromising the entire exercise (Kluger, 2007). The American troops worked as friendly forces to sustain the exercise and deliver the intended results. According to Kluger (2007), the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) was formed to unite the Special Operation Force (SOF) with the Task Force Dagger under a central command (CENTCOM). The creation of a joint function extended the tactical control of resources such as military assets for enhanced capabilities. The disintegrated units were linked, and the commanders marshaled their intents to provide matching instructions and guidelines continuously.

Competence as a Principle of Mission Command

The battles of operation Anaconda weighed the competence of America’s military forces. The war started with the U.S troops at a disadvantage following misleading intelligence and inappropriate preparation. The U.S army was therefore incompetent in intelligence gathering and planning for the war. The enemy power was significantly more than what the soldiers had anticipated. Scott (2020) implies that commanders reacted by identifying the challenges and responding immediately to prevent defeat. The subordinates worked together in respect of their leaders’ decisions after the challenges of the battle surfaced to demonstrate their competence. The U.S troops use technological developments to reinforce their competence, such as artificial intelligence to locate the Al-Qaeda and Taliban troops. The American troops demonstrated profound competency in operation Anaconda by securing victory amidst conquest. Combat decision-making, effective utilization of resources, and adaptation to unexpected scenarios are the competency metrics adopted by commanders in operation Anaconda.

Clear Commander’s Intent

The clarity of the commander’s intent was a principle of mission command leveraged by American soldiers for supremacy in the battlespace. The commander’s intent highlights the purpose of the military process and largely determines the operation’s success (Scott, 2020). The commanders of the three fragmented troops developed a common understanding by outlining the goals, objectives, and guidelines of the military process. American military leaders worked with the local Afghan fighters to combine the conventional forces to increase manpower. The Air Control Element (ACE) was established to encourage a vigorous organization of soldiers from different troops. A clear commander’s intent fosters a uniform understanding of the situation, operation plans, and anticipated results. The united efforts of the military leaders were able to predict and sustain enemy attacks regardless of their size. In the unification of war function, a clear commander’s intent helped forge a mutual understanding in pursuing the intended objectives.

Shared Understanding Through Mutual Trust

Creating understanding through mutual trust to boost confidence and morale empowered American soldiers. For the commander’s intent to be appreciated and executed effectively, subordinates’ trust is required. Commanders need to be certain of the soldiers’ competence, whereas subordinates should be confident of their commanders in training and combat environments (Army Doctrine Publication, 2012). Through their leadership, commanders build trust in the teams and conduct unified operations. Creating shared understanding prepares the soldiers for the mission order and maintains unity for a command to work in unified action.

Disciplined Initiative in Battle

The fighters from different forces in operation Anaconda exercised disciplined initiative. Despite the different forces engaged in the operation, they focused on the major objective. Communication guidelines through the command chain facilitated quick problem solving and coordination. Discipline among all the involved forces was prioritized to ensure all soldiers obeyed orders and collaboratively engaged team members to solve challenges (Scott, 2020). There was mutual understanding and cooperation between the commanders and soldiers on what missions to undertake. Common orders were issued among all troops to ensure the objectives and goals were met to the core.

Mission Orders

The collaborated soldiers were able to adhere to mission directives throughout the operation. The ultimate objective of the principle in operation was defeating the enemy without harming innocent civilians. The pronounced guidelines and commands were key priority rules to be upheld by all fighters. As events turned against them, U.S soldiers served intending to accomplish the aim mission (Kluger, 2007). Defying the mission directives at very critical moments would result in vanquish and a lot of casualties. The decision of a single soldier affects every member of the team; hence mission orders should be uniform. Mission orders explain to the subordinates the results to be attained and should be the top priority over the probable risks.

Acceptance of Prudent Risks

The final principle of the command used in operation Anaconda was acceptance of prudent risk. Death, the operational environment, harm, physical and psychological risks are risks inherent in military operations. Soldiers are supposed to accept all risks on the battlefield, whereas mission commanders’ role is to speculate and mitigate those risks. The commander’s risk when they disburse their soldiers to go fight against the enemies. The mission is the core business of a military operation, and soldiers should take calculated risks in pursuit of the mission. For instance, Slabinski is aware of the risk of returning to the area of contact, but he proceeds to accomplish the mission by returning to save his teammate. According to Kluger (2007), the American soldiers underestimated the risks involved and engaged at a tactical disadvantage against the Al-Qaeda and Taliban soldiers. The geographical unfamiliarity and tactical disadvantage are the prudent risks that soldiers accepted and conquered.


The poor organization presented operation Anaconda’s different weaknesses, although the application of the principles of Mission Command delivered positive results. Differing ideological perspectives and survival instincts due to the inherent will to live are the possibilities of war. Competence, commander’s intent, mutual understanding, disciplined initiatives, mission command, and building a cohesive team through the mutual trust are the seven principles of mission command applicable in all combat decisions. The mission comes first, before all kinds of risks in battles, and hence commanders and soldiers should be ready to overcome risks.

The operation Anaconda was successful due to applying the principles of mission command.


Army Doctrine Publication. (2012). ADP 6-0 MISSION COMMAND. Army Publishing Directorate. Web.

Kugler, R. L. (2007). Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan: a case study of adaptation in battle. National Defense Univ Washington Dc Center For Technology And National Security Policy.

Scott, K. D. (2020). Joint-All Domain Operations is Missing All-Domain Command and Control Support. Naval War College Newport Ri Newport United States. Web.

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