Maj. Gen. David Grange: Keeping the momentum
Update: The next couple of weeks are key. Most of the key cities in Afghanistan have fallen to anti-Taliban forces. And the United States, I'm guessing, will be putting more troops in. We're getting closer to the areas where we think these bad leaders are. It's a transition phase, so if we back off we'll lose that momentum.
The informational warfare is also important, especially with Ramadan starting today. We have to get people to understand that we're this war isn't against Islam, but it's a war against terrorists. And by the way, Muslims have fought during Ramadan throughout history when they thought they had to, and we think we have to right now.
We really have to watch the border with Pakistan, because that country may end up being a more safe haven for some of these leaders than Afghanistan. In fact, a report out of Iran this morning says bin Laden is already there. We're not really searching anywhere in Pakistan, although I'm sure we have agents, because of the delicate political situation in Pakistan and the number of pro-Taliban Pashtun living there. The more pro-Taliban (forces) get into Pakistan, (it) turns the tide against Musharraf, so it's in Islamabad's best interest to keep it stabilized. The problem is that the border is so porous, and a lot of the pro-Taliban folks are already in Pakistan.
Impact: You're going to add more ground forces and continue with the air means to find bin Laden and his cronies. The flow of information will pick up, as we get more people spilling their guts and start paying off people. Plus, people will start readily giving information, because there are a lot of people who were on the fence before that have changed sides. You really need to have people to sort the info out, analyze and report it. Special ops will also look for documents and such and send them onto intelligence guys. A little piece here, a little piece there puts together this puzzle.
We have totally mobilized all our assets so that we have better awareness of what's going on. We've changed some of our laws. We've declared a state of emergency to give President Bush powers to act immediately and react to intelligence.
So we're on alert, watching. Everybody has to keep their guard up on the rear areas as well as the front lines. There are no front lines in this fight. The area of operations is the world.
Tactics: It's very important that we get American assessments of the situation, and not just rely on this local commander said this or that. The other issue is that we can't get hung up on bin Laden being in a cave somewhere. He could have had a series of tapes made, and all the while be in a villa in Pakistan or Yemen or someplace like that. These guys spend years setting up safe houses.
Most of his communication is very rudimentary, as in Somalia and Vietnam. They know we can intercept messages, so the info is sent in very short, say, 10-second bursts, or via human messengers and non-technical communication -- messages that are open source but hidden in some sort of code. We just have expect the unexpected, because we're dealing with people who are very nasty, very innovative. You've got to think, if I was a bad guy, what would I do? And then, how would I prevent it?
Saying all that, we still have got to keep the pressure on in Afghanistan because they're starting to crack. We've got to keep being on the offensive.
Strategy: There are a couple of scenarios with bin Laden. One, he's not in Afghanistan -- maybe he's in Pakistan, probably the only country bordering there where he can get away with staying right now. The other scenario is, he says, "Hey, I'm going to die as a hero with my Arab legions around me." He wants to suck in Americans, setting up not only mines but rigging the place with demolitions or a chemical weapon. In other words, he's a terrorist, so he wants psychological impact -- he wants media, he wants recognition because of his ego. He'll go out in a bang.
The other possibility is he's completely out of the region and, as we're hunting for him in these caves, he plans to hit us in the rear. He'd do something in the United States or Europe or somewhere else -- if not himself, then some of his people will. And he's planned that very well ahead of time, assuming he's been out of the country for a while. Is it far-fetched? Maybe. But some of the stuff he's done has been pretty far-fetched.
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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