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Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: Joint training pays off

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

Update: The forces that conducted the raids around Kandahar are being "repositioned for future action." I have to say the video that the Defense Department released was astounding. I can't overemphasize the complexity and danger of what we saw on that video. The ability to do what they did, in watching what looked like a great B-movie, was literally unbelievable.

The amount of time that it takes to train people to do those things -- to operate at night, to go in, to get their forces together, and then to get out -- it takes years and years of practice to get the elements trained and capable to do those things.

"It looks easy -- you push people out the back of an airplane, they parachute in, they take military action. But the ability to do that in enemy territory, in the vicinity of an enemy stronghold at night -- it's astounding when you look at it.

Tactics: "You saw the effects of years of training in joint warfare. You saw attacks from air, land and sea. The Air Force delivered the troops, using intelligence gathered from space assets. Supporting that, although they didn't say so specifically, were fighters and airplanes from the Navy resources.

"Troops from the Army, including the Rangers, were used and helicopters reportedly were heard. So you see a joint team, and it is only in the last 10 years that we have perfected this capability. It all started with the debacle at "Desert One." (The attempted rescue of U.S. hostages in Iran).

"In the last few years, the mantra out of the Pentagon has been 'joint, joint, joint.' If you aren't 'joint,' you aren't anything. If it isn't joint, whether it's equipment or an exercise, it doesn't get funded. Now it's paying off, and paying off handsomely.

Impact: "I think it should demonstrate to the Taliban that we have the will and the capability to strike anywhere we want inside Afghanistan at any time, day or night. The tactics that you saw employed were well-practiced. They came from land, sea and air. The U.S. military can drop troops in, land them in helicopters, can march them over land, can come in over, or even from under the water. We saw a great deal of those tactics in the Department of Defense video.

Strategy: "The strategy of all of this is to put increasing pressure on the Taliban leadership. We are showing them that they can't win and that they can be struck anywhere at any time.

"Reports are that the Taliban are scattering into the hills and scattering into population centers --dispersing their equipment and troops. That's fine: it makes them an ineffective fighting force. They can't man their front lines against opposition forces.

Images of Northern Alliance fighters watching the U.S. jet attack (October 21

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CNN's Satinder Bindra says the Northern Alliance is looking to capture the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif (October 19)

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"If they do come out of those places to mass, to fight against the Northern Alliance, or other opposition forces, then they become targets for air power even if it's winter. So the idea of the Taliban dispersing for the winter, into the hills or into population centers, is great, except that it really affects their military capabilities to stay in power.

"People have said the Taliban will disperse to the hills, and we'll be forced into fighting guerrilla warfare. I'm certain that we have no intention of getting bogged down in guerrilla warfare where they can take advantage of their tactics, which is to sweep down out of the hills while we're in the valleys. We have no intention of doing that at all.

"The question becomes, What do you do after these raids? Will there be other raids? Possibly. Are they paving the way for the insertion of other, larger U.S. ground forces? Possibly. But it's the Taliban that have to worry about that. They won't know if we're coming with large numbers of ground forces, or whether there will be a series of Special Operations raids, or whether there will be continued air attacks over the winter.

"The reports today are that the air attacks are continuing heavily. It could be that the intelligence that we gathered has led us to more and more information about where they and their equipment are. And, it appears that wherever they are, we are going to go after them and get them."


U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), a former NATO supreme commander, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange (ret.) and Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd (ret.) 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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