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Operation Anaconda

Operation Anaconda was conducted by a force of about 2,000 soldiers, more than half which were US conventional forces, Special Forces, and Special Operating Forces commanded by Major General Buster Hagenbeck of the 10th Mountain Division, headquartered at Fort Drum, New York. Coalition forces from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, and Norway joined United States troops in Operation Anaconda. Operation Anaconda was part of the ongoing effort in Afghanistan to root out Taliban and al-Qaida forces holed up in the Pakitia Province area of the country.

Operation Anaconda began late Friday evening on 1 March 2002, in the mountainous Shah-i-Khot region south of the city of Gardez in eastern Afghanistan. Operations by US forces including the insertion of Special Operating Forces from several other nations to set up observation posts. The 10th Mountain Division and the 101st Airborne Division along with Afghan forces had units inserted into the objective area covering some 60 to 70 square miles. Rough terrain, an altitude of 8,000 to 12,000 feet, and a temperature in the evenings between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, made a very tough operating environment for soldiers. Al Qaeda troops entrenched along ridges and mountainside caves used heavy machine-gun, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire to immobilize allied Afghan forces and to pin down US soldiers as they disembarked from helicopters.

Operation Anaconda, the largest reported American ground action to date in the Afghan war, was launched on Friday, 1 March 2002. More than 1,000 US troops along with about 1,000-1,500 Afghan soldiers and 200 troops from several coalition countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany and Norway) were involved. US Army troops included elements from the 10th Mountain Division, the 101st Airborne Division, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and Special Operations forces. They attacked a concentration of several-hundred al-Qaida and Taleban fighters south of Gardez in eastern Afghanistan. The aircraft flying daily missions over the battlefield, 10 long-range bombers, 30 to 40 fighters and two to four AC-130 gunships, were more than half the size of the force used in strikes across Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. More than 350 bombs and missiles had been dropped on targets during the first four days of fighting. US aircraft dropped 190 bombs on Sunday, 3 March 2002, more than twice as many as on Saturday, 2 March 2002. From 6:30 AM Afghan time Saturday through Sunday, more than 270 bombs had been dropped in support of Afghan, US and coalition forces. As of 5 March 2002 over 450 bombs had been dropped. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were hit by enemy fire. By the end of continuous operations in late March, nearly 3,500 bombs had been dropped.

On 17 March 2002, Operation Anaconda concluded. A total of 8 American servicemen had been killed and 82 wounded in action. US troops had suffered at least eight dead and 40 wounded during the first four days of action in Operation Anaconda in early March. The deaths brought the total number of American troops killed in combat in Afghanistan to least ten, including one Special Forces soldier killed by a sniper and one CIA officer killed in a prison uprising in earlier actions. Friendly fire deaths were three killed in one incident by a bomb dropped from a US warplane. A total of 26 had been killed in accidents, including 21 killed in airplane or helicopter crashes, two in heavy- equipment accidents, one in a shipboard accident, one who fell overboard from a ship, and one from an accidental gunshot.

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