Maj. Gen. David Grange: U.S. should aggressively pursue its mission
UPDATE: The critical thing right now is that the U.S. has to continue on with the pressure on the Taliban and al Qaeda, and that's both ground and air pressure. But at the same time, there's a lot of concern over what this new government's going to look like. Are you going to continue to help the Northern Alliance when they may not be setting up a coalition government that may not like something the U.S. thinks should look a certain way? Are ethnic groups going to be represented in this new government?
It's one of those things -- that they've tasted a little bit of power on some of these victories, recently, and the longer it takes before this is set up, the harder it is to get them to cooperate in some kind of a coalition. Do we continue with the military operations, as we have with that situation, or does the U.S. back off, waiting to see what the alliance is going to do?
I realize the U.S. has to be concerned about the secondary effects, i.e., what this new Afghanistan will look like, but I don't think we should lose sight of our primary mission, which is to destroy (al Qaeda and the Taliban forces that protect them).
IMPACT: I still think we have some carrots and sticks to offer. The one reason the Northern Alliance was successful as they were is because of the U.S. power provided, i.e., air power. Realizing that air power won't do this alone, it was air power combined with the Northern Alliance ground maneuvers that caused the Taliban to collapse. (So) we can deny that. If we do, then we have these standoffs. Is that going to accomplish our accomplish our mission with al Qaeda? I don't think it will.
So I think we have to hold our course and try some other means. I still think there's plenty of leverage to kind of force some kind of a government that represents all the people. I don't think we ought to be hung up that it has a Western face to it. The key thing is we want some type of rule of law, not chaos.
(On the reported death of Mohammed Atef, the military chief of al Qaeda:) You lose your No. 1 guy, your deputy commander or your operations officer, that really hurts. It has a morale effect that just ripples right through the command. Some guys maybe up in Konduz won't know about it because they don't have communications, but the guys locally do know about it and this will definitely will affect their morale.
TACTICS: As long as we have good targets that support the primary mission, and not the Afghan civil war -- but the primary mission of destroying al Qaeda -- I think the U.S. ought to continue to execute that with vigor. If it's just to insure there's zero fighting capability of anybody else but the Northern Alliance, I don't think that should be the objective.
So I think we've still got to prosecute this war as planned. It accomplishes our objectives. We might not like the way some people are saying they're in charge now ... so we just have to continue to be very aggressive to try to get them to come around. We've got good momentum now; we don't want to lose it.
STRATEGY: (On hunting for Osama bin Laden:) Now that people are seeing that the al Qaeda are truly weakened, they may not be as much of a threat to the people. Before, people would say anything for fear of retribution. Now, that's not really the case, so I think you're going to have more people come forward and talk. You've got to have to have people on the ground to get that information, make sense out of it and tie it to the tactical situation. People are going to come forward, people are going to get bought off, and so you just keep pursuing it. It will start coming together -- you'll get a little piece here, a little piece there. Eventually, these little pieces of information put together completes the puzzle.
And you can't wait for it. You have to aggressively pursue the information by being on the ground and keep the pressure on. It will come and it will pick up, just like the folding of the Taliban picked up. I think al Qaeda are in a bit of a hurt. (Bin Laden) is clever, I'm not negating that, and they probably have some kind of a plan. But I think this pressure has truly unraveled them.
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