America's First Major Battle in Afghanistan
Lester W. Grau and Dodge Billingsley
Long before it became "Obama's War," the long-running conflict in Afghanistan was launched by President George W. Bush in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Only a few months later, Operation Anaconda sent American-led coalition forces into their most intensely brutal confrontation with Al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts in the Shar-i Kot Valley near the Pakistan border. The result was an unexpected set piece of conventional fighting in what has become an era of guerrilla warfare.
Drawing upon previously unavailable or neglected sources, Lester Grau and Dodge Billingsley give us the most complete and accurate account of this thirteen-day firefight waged in mountainous terrain nearly two miles above sea level. They describe how allied troops fought a fierce and well-entrenched enemy to a standstill, close to an old Soviet battlefield, and then drove them completely out of Afghanistan.
“The authors were careful to construct their approach and provide enough background information of Operation Anaconda so that even a novice student of military history could understand and relate to the decisions and processes affecting the battle.”
“All told, Operation Anaconda presents a compelling telling of a key point in the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan... a useful and interesting read for both the experienced as well as the casual reader of military history. Even more impressive is the DVD included with the book that features over an hour of documentary footage and interviews. This bonus material helps the reader visualize the region’s terrain and to better understand the keys to the battle.”
—Army HistorySee all reviews...
“Lester Grau, a decorated combat infantryman and proven historian, together with Dodge Billingsley, a journalist with combat experience, ably chronicle all that did and did not go well in Operation Anaconda in March 2002. The story they tell is compelling, based on thorough research, personal experience, and an affinity for combat soldiers and airmen. . . . This is a well-told story of courage under extraordinary conditions.”
“The best and most detailed account of America’s first major military ground war in the twenty-first century.”
“Grau and Billingsleys work, Operation Anaconda, helps dispel the cloud of chaos that apparently characterized American military might in the opening sequence of Operation Enduring Freedom. If the authors had merely studied and analyzed records of when and where men were deployed, for how long, and with what armaments, they would have provided the reader with a less satisfying study, one that lets us know what happened but not necessarily how it happened (that is, how decisions were made in the heat of battle). Using interviews with soldiers allowed Grau and Billingsley to construct an impressive account of the fog of war in modern warfare and to suggest ways to dissipate that fog in future battles.”
—Oral History Review
“This book provides the reader with a detailed account of the whole operation, including the preparation and decision making and a blow by blow description of the fighting, concluding with a valuable chapter covering operational and tactical lessons learned. . . . This is a great book that can be read and studied by anyone (all military rank levels and military history enthusiasts) interested in modern combat operations involving land and air forces and the lessons that come from doing things for real, beyond the world of operational and tactical theory where discussion, planning, decision making, training and mission rehearsal exercises point toward perfect results.”
—Australian Army Journal
“Rich in detail and background material, a day-by-day account—the best available—of Operation Anaconda during March 2002. Operation Anaconda was the largest and longest (13 days) light infantry battle fought since Vietnam, as US, Canadian, Australian, and Afghani forces tried to seal off the Shar-i Kot Valley in eastern Afghanistan. . . . It would be the last major set-piece battle Al Qaeda would fight, a classic battle of encounter fought almost two miles above sea level.”
“A gripping tale of adventure and a strong contribution to the history of Operation Enduring Freedom. Grau and Billingsley remind us that plans rarely survive the first shots in battle and that modern technology does not change the fact that war is ultimately a life or death struggle.”
—Hy S. Rothstein, author of Afghanistan and the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare
“This is the best narrative to date on a critical battle in our wars in Afghanistan and one that uses the latest and most detailed information available. . . . A unique, well-documented, and historically significant study.”
—Sean M. Maloney, author of Fighting for Afghanistan: A Rogue Historian at WarSee fewer reviews...
Grau and Billingsley's account also highlights problems encountered in Anaconda and the lessons we should learn from their in-depth study. The Army and Air Force operated under conflicting views regarding the appropriate application of Close Air Support, and airpower both crippled and aided the overall effort. In addition, severe shortages of transport, attack helicopters, and artillery hampered the effort, while the acquisition and timely sharing of intelligence barely occurred at all and coalition relations frayed under the intense pressures of combat.
As an added bonus, the authors also include with the book a documentary on DVD that features interviews with soldiers who fought in Anaconda, provides additional information concerning major phases of the battle, and presents insightful commentary by Grau and by Billingsley, who was on the ground with U.S. forces for the operation. Providing the richest description and critique of all the forces involved—including those that fought on the enemy side—the combined book-and-DVD surpasses all previous accounts of this landmark engagement and is an essential volume in the literature on our war in Afghanistan.