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General David Grange: Military strategy in Afghanistan

CNN military analyst General David Grange (Ret.) was in the United States Army for 30 years. He was the Commanding General of the First Infantry Division, also known as the "Big Red One." During his time of service, Grange was a Ranger and a Green Beret. He is now the chief operating officer and an executive vice president at the Robert McCormick Tribune Foundation. He joined the chat room from Chicago..

CNN: Good day, General Grange, and welcome to Newsroom. We're pleased to have you with us today.

GEN. DAVID GRANGE: I'm pleased to be here. I'm General Dave Grange, retired, and I'm here to answer any questions I can about the war against terrorism.

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CNN: General Grange, what is the significance of the increased use of bases in Uzbekistan?

GRANGE: Well, the use of bases, whether in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, or any of the other areas to the north of Afghanistan, is all about time and distance, to provide operational reach. Currently, our combat operations must be launched out of Turkey, or the Arabian Sea, or the Persian Gulf, so it requires long distances of in-flight time before they strike their targets. The ability to have bases closer, as an example, Uzbekistan, reduces the time [and] distance, allowing for short range aircraft and helicopters to strike targets, or to conduct ground combat operations using air means.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: General, do you feel we have the right force structure in place in Afghanistan to get the job done effectively?

GRANGE: I believe that the right force structure is not all there to date, but we'll continue to build up required force structure. For instance, limited ground operations by U.S. forces, if required, will need some larger units, larger than Special Operations provides. That's another reason [for] the criticality of bases that are closer to the borders of Afghanistan.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there some way we know when a "bunker buster" gets a good target, and how large the target was?

GRANGE: You will not know with 100% assurance that bunker-busting munitions have destroyed your target. The best way is secondary explosions. But if there is no secondary explosion, then you have an estimate of an analyst to see if he or she feels you have destroyed your target. The best way to determine if you have destroyed subterranean targets is with a first-hand look [by] people on the ground.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: General, what is the range of options available to us in our efforts to locate and/or kill Osama bin Laden?

GRANGE: The range of options to locate bin Laden is obviously a combination of intelligence means from high technology, from signals intercept, satellite intelligence, from thermal sensors. But the best way, and final way, which is our weakest area, is from human intelligence. That's credible human intelligence, which basically means spies on the ground. Any target confirmation will be fleeting at best. So then you get into either killing or capturing bin Laden from that intelligence, and your means have to be used very quickly. Then your range [of options for] destroying bin Laden is through air strike, missile strike, commando raid, or using some of the Northern Alliance units or anti-al Qaeda Taliban forces. If you are to capture him, then of course the missile and air strike options are not viable.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: General Grange, if ground troops are used in action, do you think you will have a better result in defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda?

GRANGE: I believe that a ground option is a must to succeed in defeating al Qaeda and the hard core Taliban elements. Air power will not do this alone. You have to have a combination of air power, ground maneuver, an information campaign, and support of the Afghan peoples -- i.e., humanitarian assistance, food, shelter, medical -- because part of the mission is to isolate bin Laden, Omar, and other hard core leaders of the al Qaeda Taliban organizations from the people. They have to be isolated and cut off from the support of the people.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Gen. Grange, do you think there will be heavy casualties in a ground effort?

GRANGE: Yes. I believe the anti-Taliban, the Northern Alliance, as well as any anti- Taliban forces that defect from the Taliban itself, will have heavy casualties. I think any international Allied ground forces that participate will also have casualties, but not to the extent of the Afghan tribes that will be fighting.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is the Northern Alliance awaiting the rumored shipments of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery from the U.S. and Russia before they begin their assault?

GRANGE: The Northern Alliance is obviously outgunned and outmanned right now. They get better every day. Military and subsistence supplies come in daily from the international coalition. But it takes more than just delivering rifles, tanks, artillery. Someone also has to train them on the use of those weapons and equipment. I believe that's what's been eating up a lot of the time. The worst thing we could do is persuade the Northern Alliance to attack Taliban strongholds around Kabul or Mazar-e Sharif if they're not ready. You're never going to have 100% assurance, but you want to have advantages apparent that you have a good chance of success, before you launch any kind of ground operations.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: There are some reporters attempting to get as close as possible to the combat activities happening in Afghanistan. Does the military take these people into account when attacks are going on?

GRANGE: If they're on a Taliban side of the lines, they're there at their own risk. If they're on the Northern Alliance side of the lines, they'll be taken into account, just like the Northern Alliance allies are. That's a risk that correspondents take, as they try to move freely around a battlefield.

CHAT PARTICIPANT:If the U.S. [should] attack Iraq as part of the campaign against terror, what are the chances in your opinion that Iraq will attack Israel as a response?

GRANGE: I think right now that we do not want to attack Iraq, and that's mainly because our military is small and stretched thin around the world. I believe that eventually we will have to do something about the Saddam Hussein regime of Iraq, and that's a matter of time before that happens. Iraq would do everything in its power to drag in the Israeli situation to thwart our efforts. When I fought in the Gulf War, the unit I was apart of had the mission to destroy the Iraqi scuds that were being fired into Israel in an attempt by Saddam Hussein to get an Israeli response, with the side effect of breaking up the Muslim alliance that we had during the Gulf War.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: How about the support of the Muslim people around the world? How do we convince them not to support the Taliban?

GRANGE: First of all, we have to have an information campaign, which really is just telling the truth, that this is not a religious war against the Islamic faith, that this is a war against terrorism, and those that abuse the Koran for personal gain, or the gain of violence. Al Qaeda is an example. This is very difficult to do, because we're dealing with convincing people that in most cases live in a closed society, with limited access to outside information. But it is a prerequisite for our success, so we don't turn this into a regional conflict of Christianity against the Islamic nations.

CNN: Do you have any closing comments for us today?

GRANGE: There's no doubt in my mind that this is an operation that will take some time, as the President, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense have stated. All guerilla wars take time. There's no immediate or obvious victory when you fight guerillas. It's not like after the Gulf War, a conventional war, where you have a ticker tape parade, and sometimes the measures of effectiveness are just the absence of acts by your opponent. We have to trust our armed forces, and our national command authority with how they are pursuing the accomplishment of this war on terrorism, and understand that it's not a 100-yard dash, but a marathon.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, General Grange.

GRANGE: Thank you.

General David Grange joined the chat room by telephone and CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the chat which took place on Monday, November 5, 2001.


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