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Operation Anaconda

The failures of the only pitched battle the US army fought against al Qaeda in Afghanistan provide grounds for anxiety about a future conflict in the streets of Baghdad

By Chris Stephen   December 2002

In early February, US commanders in Afghanistan thought they had finally cornered al Qaeda. Since the fall of Kabul in November, American forces had played a game of cat and mouse with guerrillas in the southern mountains, unable to bring them to battle. Now intelligence showed al Qaeda units had gathered in strength in the Shahikot valley, a steep-sided gorge close to the Pakistani border. Best of all, from the point of view of US commander Major General Franklin “Buster” Hagenbeck, the decisive battle would go to the army, rather than their rivals, the Marine Corps. The Marines had taken…

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