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Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: More intelligence information, more airstrikes

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

Update: "Yesterday, the Pentagon said 80 percent of the strikes were directed at frontline Taliban troops. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also announced the United States had a limited number of troops operating inside Afghanistan, some in the north and some in the south. The significance of that is obvious: You have to put in normally Special Operations forces on the ground to liaise with, in this case, Northern Alliance and opposition forces.

"We are hearing reports that we are beginning to strengthen Northern Alliance and opposition forces with ammunition, leading to speculation about the establishment of a base. If we establish a base, my guess is that it would initially be a supply base to bring military aid to the front lines.

"It's also been reported that Turkey may send troops. Turkish forces are extremely tough and well-disciplined, and they've had a long history of fighting terrorism in their country. So this is an example of the growing role the alliance is playing to bring more and more pressure on the Taliban, and further evidence that this is not a war against Muslims. (Turkey is 99 percent Muslim.) This is a case of Muslims fighting other Muslims and for some very good reasons."

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Impact: "The strikes going on now against the front lines have been termed 'close air support,' but it's still interdiction. We are hitting targets that we know about, and that are not in close combat against friendly forces. When you switch to supporting troops in very close combat, tens or a couple hundred yards away from enemy troops and generally with fighters and helicopters, then it becomes close air support. We're not at that phase yet.

"You get intelligence from all sorts of sources -- from prisoners, defectors, military commanders, allied forces, from other nations and from other opposition forces. It doesn't take a lot of U.S. intelligence people on the ground to pick this information up. The reportedly small numbers of U.S. troops in there would be consistent with all this."

Tactics: "The U.S. forces now on the ground have to establish trust, they have to establish intelligence, and they have to establish communication so they can differentiate between friendly and enemy troops, all the while gathering all the intelligence they can get. The air control teams (they're also called ground air controllers) eventually direct strikes.

"As to what we're dropping, I doubt 5,000-pound bunker buster bombs are being used right now unless we find a deeply buried target that we really know about. My guess is that most of what you're seeing is 2,000-pound bombs. Cluster ammunitions, like they have on many Tomahawk missiles, are also being used against an area target such as troops in the open, troops in trenches, vehicles being spread across a wide area, etc."

Strategy: "We hear all this bravado about these pinpoint U.S. strikes emboldening the Taliban. As the saying goes, 'You ain't seen nothing yet.' So far, these are very small numbers of strikes. We're doing less than 100 sorties a day; even in Kosovo, we did probably 200 to 300 sorties a day.

"We have the ability to really step it up at any time, especially if we can improve our intelligence through better coordination with opposition forces and fresh, first-hand information from U.S. forces now on the ground. So, over time, we will see how the Taliban like U.S. and allied strikes when we really increase them and bring pressure on the Taliban."


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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