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Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: Special Operations in and out

Don Shepperd is a retired U.S. Air Force major general and a military analyst for CNN.  

Update: This is a new phase of the war. For the first time, we learned that there were U.S. forces in northern Afghanistan, and now there are reportedly forces in southern Afghanistan. We are waiting for the Pentagon to confirm where they were operating; wire reports indicate they were in the Kandahar area, and they were in and out. This would be typical of the way the Special Operations forces operate.

These forces are very, very tough. These are the bad guys; you want them on your side. You drop them behind enemy lines to do specific things, then get them out.

Impact: We likely will not be told what the target was, and neither will we be told if it was successful. This is in keeping with what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said -- some of them you'll hear about it, and some of them you won't. The good news, it appears, is that all of the forces sent in appear to have gotten out.

They're very sensitive about operations because the missions are so dangerous -- a small group of guys very much put in harm's way. They call themselves the silent warriors, and they don't want to be talked about. They'd be just as happy if no one ever used the term "special operations."

Tactics: The mission of Special Forces is ambush, reconnaissance, air assaults, hasty defense capturing, hitting specific targets. They're the break-down-the-door people.

The general sense is to get in and ... go after specific things and get out and prepare for other forces that follow later. They're not heavy forces, they are in and out forces. If they stay, they have to have support from heavier forces.

These are basically small Special Forces teams, but they can be brought together in larger numbers. So you can bring in any number that you want.

Strategy: They're the standard commandos that date back to the 1700s and a New Hampshire militia, Roger's Rangers. They were copying the guerrilla-style tactics of the American Indians in the French and Indian era in the Colonial days. They've got a whole page of standing orders, and three of them were: Don't forget nothing. Have your musket clean as a whistle. When you're on the march, act the way you would if you were sneaking up on a deer -- see the enemy first. This really captures what today's Special Forces and Rangers are all about.


U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark (retired), a former NATO supreme commander; U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange (retired); and Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd (retired) are serving as CNN military analysts during the war against terror. Their briefings will appear daily on

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN is sensitive to reporting any information that could endanger lives or operations.


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