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Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: Frustration building

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

Update: What we're seeing is frustration setting in regarding the frontline battle. In other words, al Qaeda is still there, the Taliban are still there, bin Laden is still there, the Northern Alliance hasn't advanced. How come? And the answer is, because we're entering a very complicated phase of the battle -- that is, operations against the frontline troops.

U.S. forces have to be very careful about what they hit and where they bomb. The Taliban are in close proximity to friendly forces, like the Northern Alliance, and there's the pressure to avoid civilian casualties.

Impact: The whole idea of this is to sort out where the Taliban's frontline positions are and bring the right kind of ordnance to bear on them. It's going to take some time, but they will gradually get weaker.

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As we hit the Taliban and as they fire ammunition, they have to replace it. They won't have the money to do it, and they won't have the time to do it. That said, nobody can predict how long this is going to take.

Tactics: A lot of people think that because U.S. airplanes are so high, they cannot see the targets and therefore they should go lower. But airplanes operating at low altitudes and high speeds still cannot see camouflaged targets. The targets have to come from ground observers, airborne systems such as the Predator, airborne air controllers zooming in with magnifying glasses, or perhaps even space images relayed rapidly to an airborne fighter. If you go low, you're going to get shot -- and that accomplishes nothing, because then the war stops until you can capture your pilots.

We're still going after fixed targets of the al Qaeda when we can find them, but the major focus is probably on the Taliban front lines. Basically, you run out of these fixed targets fairly quickly. As we get more intelligence we'll go back and hit targets that we know still exist.

Strategy: We don't know if it's going to take two days, two weeks, two months or two years to root out the Taliban. But we are going to root them out, to weaken them over time. The Northern Alliance will be re-supplied with armor, ammunition, artillery, food -- all the things to sustain an army while the Taliban are going to be gradually deprived of that.

The time crunch for Ramadan and winter are both factors. We'd love to have everything be over by Ramadan, but we don't know if we can. We have to listen to the Pentagon to see what we're going to do. That is really a political issue, whether or not to have airstrikes during Ramadan.


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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