Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: Fine start for campaign
Update: One month into the military campaign, I'm impressed with what the U.S. and allied forces have been able to do. They have built a worldwide coalition, with other nations not only sending words [of encouragement] but troops and support. First was Britain, then Turkey, Germany, France, Italy and likely Japan. You've also got NATO forces deploying to the United States, and you have a ring of bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, plus others being surveyed in Tajikistan and elsewhere around Afghanistan.
The Northern Alliance is being resupplied with ammunition, clothes for the winter, food and other supplies. They have also been helped by a measured air campaign that's steadily being increased to around 120 sorties a day now thanks to intelligence assets deployed on the ground and in the air. The United States has also demonstrated with Special Operations forces that we can go into Afghanistan and carry out a mission at the time and place of our choosing.
Now the Northern Alliance is reportedly seizing new areas, and there's activity by opposition forces in southern Afghanistan. In all, it's a very encouraging picture.
Impact: What happened [in the Persian Gulf War] with the Iraqi Republican Guard was all of a sudden; the order went out for them to redeploy to Baghdad, and there was a massive retreat all at once. It's not an analogous situation in Afghanistan; You don't have the front line or troops deployed in the same manner.
The Taliban may merely melt away, or they could go into hiding. You could see a coalition government form without a major battle if the Taliban just disperses. But dispersing is much easier than reorganizing and challenging a sitting government. When they disperse in the cities and the hills, they cease to become an effective fighting force.
Ultimately, the military outcome is a given, but the political battle is much more difficult. The greatest challenge is finding a political solution that works.
Tactics: We'll be continuing resupplying and training so other opposition forces can be effective. Improving intelligence is also vital, be it in better targeting for airstrikes, effectiveness of commando raids or coordination with friendly forces.
While winter may slow down some aspects of U.S. operations, in general it will be our friend because we're better at operating in the winter than the Taliban.
An open question is: Will you or will you not see a large deployment of U.S. ground forces inside Afghanistan? We've established the bases to do that, and the fact we can do it is the key. It means the Taliban have to prepare to face not only the Northern Alliance but also massive numbers of U.S.-led troops.
Strategy: What happens with the Northern Alliance remains to be seen. For years, they have been under-supplied, underarmed, underfed and on the defensive. But the whole dynamic has changed, with fresh supplies coming in and the United States bombing Taliban front lines.
I foresee increasing numbers of U.S. airstrikes as intelligence improves. I also expect the Northern Alliance to gain areas, although there may be some back-and-forth exchanges. We could easily go into the winter and the spring, or this could come to a halt quickly if the Taliban realize their hopes are futile.
The other thing that's shaping up is increasingly harsh statements from U.S. officials about their resolve in this war. If I were the Taliban, I'd be worried.
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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