Maj. Gen. David Grange: Clearing a path for the Northern Alliance
Update: These recent B-52 strikes -- the so-called carpet-bombing, which is much more precise than the term leads you to believe -- those are focused on trench lines, bunkers, the fighting positions to frontline troops or reserve elements that could counterattack. Those are really in preparation for ground operations.
Impact: This bombing not only kills the enemy, it detonates a lot of minefields. It detonates a lot of mines that would kill the anti-Taliban forces if they advance, or even some of ours if we have people with them.
We're bringing in strikes that are pretty much targeting maneuver units. We're still hitting command and control with precision bombs, we're still hitting ammo dumps, we're hitting vehicle parks and any air defense that continues to come up.
Tactics: Among the Northern Alliance, there's a lot of training going on. Instead of a kind of ragtag, guerrilla-looking outfit, you're seeing people issued uniforms; most of them [receive] boots, individual weapons and some kind of order and discipline into this army.
I'm sure there are some that are veteran fighters, but you've got a lot of new recruits that they've kind of brought in. You've got to remember, these people were fighting by clan, by tribal units. Now you're bringing them all together to be a combined force to attack the Taliban. So that takes a little training and preparation, and that's probably why you haven't seen a harder offensive in the past. But I think we're getting to that soon.
You don't want someone to attack if they're not ready to succeed. You also can get some kind of discipline in there, and some respect for human life. You say, "Now wait a minute, we're training these guys to kill people," but you don't want lawlessness on the battlefield. You don't want a force with this Genghis Khan mentality of rape, pillage and burn.
Strategy: Kabul is a political objective. Mazar-e Sharif is a key terrain objective that would enable future operations. The Mazar-e Sharif area is critical. ... It controls the road from Uzbekistan to Kabul, and it's the crossroads to Herat in the west. Then you've pretty much isolated Kandahar.
In any kind of guerrilla war, the key is to isolate the guerrillas. Taking Mazar-e Sharif also opens the door to bring in much-needed international humanitarian supplies that will be critical for the people with the upcoming winter. Winter doesn't affect the military operations as much as it does the civilians.
Taking Kabul makes it look like we've got someone who has at least the traditional seat of the government. Even though it's not a true nation-state, it has that perception -- you're at the political node of the country as it should be, so you have the option to declare that we have a coalition government among the tribal entities of Afghanistan, and that is the legal seat of government. And it gives you some type of justification to then honor that coalition government for further political and international support. That's the long-range part of this bombing campaign.
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 CNN.com.
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