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Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: Royal Marines add to alliance

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

Update: The key to intensifying strikes near the front lines is intelligence, knowing where people and things really are. When you operate close to the front lines, you have to be very careful of what you hit. You have to have good liaison with the friendly forces and information on the enemy forces as well.

Tactics: The inclusion of the British Royal Marines in the region is an important step. It is an expansion, not of the alliance, but of the capabilities of the forces of the alliance. There are reportedly 200 of them mobilized, and another 400 of them on high-readiness alert. They are operating off ships in the Arabian Sea. The Royal Marines are a very good ground force and add significantly to the alliance capabilities for commando raids.

So far, there do not appear to be massive movements of U.S. ground forces to the region, but the Taliban face that prospect all the time. Winter will slow things down for the U.S. and coalition forces, but it also slows things down for the Taliban. They have as much trouble fighting during the winter as we do.

Impact: I think the frustration that's setting in is understandable. It happens in every war. There is a great deal of enthusiasm as bombing starts, and then suddenly there is a realization that bombing is a serious business. It does not take effect quickly. What you see in war are the cumulative effects of bombing, commando raids and other military actions. Our actions will weaken the Taliban over time until they have no supplies, ammunition and allies. Whether that takes a shorter or a longer time remains to be seen, but the Taliban will collapse at some point when they realize it's pointless to continue.

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The Taliban are certainly fierce fighters, but they still need ammunition, food and supplies. No matter how fierce they are, they need those things to wage war. On the other side, the Northern Alliance will be supplied from all sorts of sources. The United States, Great Britain, even Russian tanks are coming to them now. So every time alliance forces lose something, it will be replaced by one or two others, and they will get gradually stronger.

The Taliban is not monolithic. There are factions within the Taliban, from more moderate all the way to extreme. You may see various portions of them collapse first and others holding on for much longer. There were still Japanese soldiers after World War II ended, holding out on some of the islands of the Pacific, and the same thing could happen in Afghanistan.

Strategy: This is very complicated both diplomatically and militarily. It is complicated by winter, Ramadan, the nature of the Taliban. We saw Friday, with the execution of anti-Taliban leader Abdul Haq, the hideous nature with which they deal with anyone who opposes them.

Efforts to find a diplomatic solution -- forming a coalition government in Kabul at the end of hostilities -- continue. Undoubtedly those efforts took a major hit with the execution of Haq. The people meeting in Pakistan understand that it is going to be difficult to oust the Taliban and form a political solution.


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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