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Maj. Gen. David Grange: Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif critical

David Grange is a retired U.S. Army major general and a military analyst for CNN.  

Update: There are two immediate objective areas for anti-Taliban forces: One is Mazar-e Sharif, and the other is Kabul. Kabul has the political significance, while Mazar-e Sharif has more of an operational significance. This city is a key point for all kinds of supplies, and it ties Uzbekistan to Pakistan.

Winter is a major concern for humanitarian assistance more than anything else, as we definitely don't need thousands and thousands of people dying. And I would think it'd be advantageous, from a military standpoint, to take Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif before winter.

Impact: If those two cities were taken, it would really be a shock to the Taliban. And it would definitely cause some Afghan tribal leaders to change sides -- these guys are famous for switching to the winning side.

Then what you have left is Herat and Kandahar, both of which would be isolated. If there was a Taliban armored movement between Kandahar and Herat, it could be taken out easily by U.S.-led airstrikes.

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The plan is not only to isolate the Taliban and al Qaeda militarily, but to isolate them with the will of the people. They'd want to convince Afghans that these guys, who are holding out down in and around Kandahar, are foreigners -- that they used "our country" for their own benefit and to commit terrorism.

Tactics: We know that the anti-Taliban are outgunned and outmanned. Without the air support, it will be hard for them to advance and for the coalition government to come together.

We also need anti-Taliban progress to set up refugee camps for the winter, because the humanitarian issue is going to be overwhelming. Sure, there will be some guerrilla fighting here and there, but we can let the anti-Taliban take care of most of it.

U.S. and allied advisers that are with the anti-Taliban can report back on how the airstrikes and coalition are going, and make sure we carry out psychological warfare and humanitarian assistance. Then there are special ops, which can focus on hard-core guys around Kandahar. And I think the U.S. can do more raids, just to make the Taliban worry about their rear end and prevent them from going up to the northeast, near Kabul.

Strategy: Once you isolate the hard-core Taliban and al Qaeda, then you can start working on the ethnic piece of integrating Pashtun peoples into the other Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaris and come up hopefully with an Afghan tribe coalition government.

Most of the Pashtun people that make up the Taliban are not really the hard-core people. There are enough moderates that just want peace.

The trick is going to be making sure that other groups honor that ethnicity, because we don't want a reversal like we did in Kosovo, with the KLA on the Serbs. The worst thing that could happen is if some Northern Alliance tribes come in and kill thousands of Pashtuns.


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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