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Gen. Wesley Clark: Questions abound for U.S. forces

Retired army general and military analyst Wesley Clark is a former NATO supreme commander.  

Update: We're continuing to apply pressure north of Kabul, but it's not clear that the pressure is decisive. Therefore, the questions are: Are we being deliberately metered? Is there an absence of targets? Or, is there a holdup on the part of the Northern Alliance in moving ahead?

There's been no major breakthrough yet in Peshawar, Pakistan, where tribal, Northern Alliance and other Afghan leaders, including moderate Taliban, are meeting to discuss a post-Taliban government. That meeting is very important in a campaign like this.

And today, the Pentagon said two Marine Sea Stallion helicopters trying to recover the carcass of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed over Pakistan last week was taken under fire by someone at an airfield inside of Pakistan. So a key issue is, who's got control of the Afghan/Pakistan border?

Impact: For this operation to be successful, you have to isolate the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan from outside support. You can't have Osama bin Laden and the Taliban be resupplied. And yet we know the Pakistanis have turned back Somalis and others who tried to get in today, and we also know there was some shooting at this airfield inside Pakistan at an American helicopter.

This shows that, at the margins of this campaign, all the conditions have not been set for the success.

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As to the airstrikes, if the Taliban are digging in, they're very hard to see from the air. Unless their positions are expertly spotted and reported, they won't be attacked effectively.

Tactics: I've not seen another Ranger raid yet, but that's not surprising. These raids are going to occur at random. We don't want to be in a pattern where every X number of days we do another raid.

The anti-Taliban forces are being refitted and re-equipped by the Russians to some extent. But there are practical difficulties in getting equipment in and training people on it. So it can't be done overnight; a period of days and perhaps weeks are needed to give them even adequate equipment.

Presumably, the Northern Alliance are trying to recruit more people. One of the most important initiatives that I've seen, announced in the British press today, is the training of some 4,000 young Afghans to come in and be a police force in Kabul.

Strategy: In Afghanistan what they're trying to do is basically three things. They're trying to get the Northern Alliance to exert more pressure on the Taliban. They're trying to destroy as much as the Taliban forces to put more pressure on the Taliban directly. And they're trying to locate and infiltrate Osama bin Laden's headquarters.

The diplomatic, strategic, operational and tactical levels all have to be synchronized in this campaign. On the other hand, there's a sort of dynamic tension because the tactical initiative that might spur an agreement -- in other words, the momentum on the ground.

It would be much better if this was over by Ramadan but it would've been better if the Kosovo campaign was over by Easter, but it wasn't. The military requirements will take priority over the religious holidays, no doubt about it.


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

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