Operation Anaconda was the first major joint combat operation against the war on terror that the US was committed to winning. This operation would test our military’s readiness for joint operations against a hardened and willing adversary. The primary mission was to kill/capture Taliban/Al Qaeda forces occupying towns and villages in the vicinity of Shahi Khot in order to gain control of the valley.1 The US needed the towns, villages, mountains, and more importantly, the intricate and hard to access caves cleared of enemy fighters. Units participating in the operation included elements of the 101st Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, Special Operations Forces (SOF), and Coalition forces from seven nations including Afghanistan.2 With so many different nations fighting along with our own branches of military, it would test our ability to conduct joint operations on multiple levels.
September 11, 2001, Osama Bin Laden decided to “wake the sleeping giant.” The US immediately sent SOF units and CIA officers to recon the area and meet with the Northern Alliance. The primary battle leading up to this operation was Tora Bora, which was absent of conventional forces. Up until this point, the war on terror was predominantly a Special Operations fight along with Air Force for overhead support.3 SOF and the Northern Alliance had already displaced Taliban forces out of many towns and villages in northern Afghanistan to gain control of key terrain. Key towns in northern Afghanistan including Taloqan, Konduz, Herat, and Mazar-e Sharif took only three weeks to clear.4 The SOF units were making huge impacts across the country calling in air strikes. At the same time the SOF units were diligently working with the Northern Alliance and local fighter to gain trust and also train them for future battles.
The US had occupied an old airfield in Uzbekistan for staging purposes. This base would be known as K2, short for Karshi Khanabad. At this point the Special Operations community occupied the airfield, but this would soon change, as conventional forces were inbound to assist in the fight.
Commanding the fight was CENTCOM Combatant Commander General Tommy Franks, operating out of CENTCOM Headquarters in Tampa, Florida.5 General Franks had the discretion as to how he wanted to establish his Command and Control (C2). He decided to work both functional commands and subordinate joint commands. General Franks selected General Mikolashek as his Combined Forces Land Component Commander (CFLCC) and General Moseley as the Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC). General Mikolashek was based out of Camp Doha, Kuwait, and General Moseley was located at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.6
Operations and air strikes had forced the remaining Taliban fighters to regroup in the eastern White Mountains, close to the Pakistan border where they could easily hide. Intelligence showed that...