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Sean Naylor

The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda

A-NotGoodDayDieIn March 2002, the war in Afghanistan had been raging for five months when U.S. forces were ordered into the Shahikot Mountains to root out Afghan and foreign fighters. Although the enemy suffered considerable damage and the operation was deemed a success, much went awry—not only during the mission, but before it even launched. Critical intelligence failures, woefully inadequate air support, friendly-fire tragedies, inexperienced leadership, and the lack of a clear chain of command all contributed to avoidable American casualties in what very nearly became one of the worst military catastrophes in recent history.
Berkley. 425 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0425196097

Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"… Naylor’s excellent reporting—with detailed attribution—unveils a system that clearly failed to give American soldiers the equipment and help they deserved to save their own lives and take those of the enemy. Anybody who is thinking of joining the military, has family in uniform, or is concerned about what happens to America’s soldiers should read [this book]." Chris Jensen

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"… the story of remarkable personal courage by fighters who deserved better support from their chain of command. As Naylor puts it, the operation demonstrated that ‘today’s American soldier is as brave and, when provided with the required equipment, training and leadership, as capable as any of his forefathers.’" Mike Francis

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Naylor does an admirable job of exposing the many shortcomings that plagued this chapter of the Afghanistan war, although he does not sort the major from the minor failings or linger over the broader lessons. What the book lacks in analytical heft, however, it more than makes up in drama." Linda Robinson

Critical Summary

Reviewers lauded Naylor’s "meticulously reported" account (Oregonian). It includes in-person observations during the operation (Naylor was imbedded with the 101st Airborne Division troops who fought in the battle), and scores of after-the-fact interviews, many with sources who wouldn’t allow themselves to be identified. His two-year undertaking to bring those 17 days to life yields an extraordinarily detailed account of the fateful mission. While a few critics felt that some aspects of the book were unbalanced, all agreed that Naylor did a good job in portraying the drama, heroism, and blunders that defined Anaconda while raising broader issues of warfare and its ultimate purpose.