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Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: Big bombs, bad news for Taliban

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

Update: There's nothing but good news on the Northern Alliance front, and nothing but bad news for the Taliban.

We've begun dropping the BLU-82, a 15,000-pound concussion bomb, for the first time in Afghanistan. It can be a very effective weapon used in the right place. It also appears that there's activity in southern Afghanistan, with more forces coming out against the Taliban.

We also know that the Northern Alliance is beginning to move, and you'll probably see a lot more ground activity in the coming days. We have no idea how effective these forces will be or how effective the bombing has been, but it is clear the Northern Alliance is being restocked with armaments, clothes, food and other supplies.

Impact: The rhetoric has changed, but you're not seeing measurable progress yet in the sense major cities are being taken. But even though we should expect setbacks, things seem to be falling into place. Supplies may still trickle in to the Taliban, but the U.S.-led coalition and opposition forces are doing all these things to hinder their supplies, destroy communications, weaken their forces, all while drying up their money.

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On the other hand, it does not mean the Northern Alliance will be able to march against Mazar-e Sharif and Kabul and take and hold them easily. The Taliban still may outnumber them 4-to-1, and switching from a defensive war -- which the Northern Alliance has been fighting for years -- to an offensive war is not easy. You will see cities taken and lost again, I think.

Tactics: The use of the BLU-82, or "daisy cutter," is a big development. This bomb, used in Vietnam to clear jungles, is not dropped for psychological reasons, although it may have that effect, but more to kill troops.

This is a standard, if large explosive bomb that disperses a GSX slurry and uses aluminum powder as an explosive. It then uses an ignition mechanism to ignite it all at once, providing a huge explosion. It's much different than carpet bombing in that it kills people with concussion, as opposed to shrapnel.

There's also talk of setting up a dirt airstrip to expedite re-supply of the Northern Alliance. Especially with the prospect of bad weather, it's much better if you can fly in supplies with tactical aircraft such as C-130s. Of course, it would also be useful if you can seize an airfield. Over time we'll probably do both -- set up dirt strips and seize an airfield.

Strategy: The Taliban have a lot to worry about: airstrikes, the Northern Alliance and other forces attacking them, cutting off of their supplies, insertion of U.S. and allied special operations teams, and the possibility of larger numbers of U.S. forces coming in.

The reports that Taliban forces, especially around Kandahar, are breaking up into small groups also works into the U.S. and opposition strategy. When they do that, they're no longer an effective fighting force. They need communications to be even nominally effective, and any time they communicate they give us the chance to gain intelligence.


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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