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Maj. Gen. David Grange: Forces celebrate holiday

David Grange is a former U.S. Army major general and now a CNN military analyst.  

UPDATE: In Konduz, I think the Taliban sincerely want to negotiate an agreement because, one, they don't want to die and, two, they're fighting fellow Afghans, even if they are from different tribes. They always make deals, so that's typical.

But I personally don't think the hard-core mercenaries in the area are going to surrender, even though Taliban negotiating in Mazar-e Sharif said they would. Those guys have no future, and Afghans see them as foreigners. They got there because of a deal between Taliban supreme ruler Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, but most Afghans hate them now. I don't think Afghans want these Pakistani, Chechen, Saudi and other mercenaries hiding in and occupying their country.

Also today, Thanksgiving is a big deal in the U.S. military, probably more so than any other holiday, and they take extraordinary measures to make sure its forces can celebrate. You think about holidays a lot when you're deployed. U.S. personnel on ships, stations or bases will get a full dinner, and the military will try to fly in special meals to any other U.S. troops accessible by fixed-wing aircraft.

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IMPACT: Impact: Most of the locals around Konduz are staunchly anti-Taliban, so the Taliban there are really a military entity without any relationship with the civilian population. The Kandahar area is predominantly Pashtun and friendlier to the Taliban, so the Taliban may still think they can hold that city.

I think the hard-core mercenaries around Konduz will either fight to the death or try what you call a "break out from encirclement." The fighting between Mazar-e Sharif and Konduz, I think, was these guys trying to surge past the Northern Alliance and out of Afghanistan. If they stay in Konduz, a lot of civilians may die because of it.

The U.S. morale is sky-high, as you could tell when the president -- who is also the top military guy, as commander-in-chief -- visited Fort Campbell Wednesday. They are high on him right now, because of the success and commitment to pursuing this to the finish. What's most disappointing to troops, at any time, is when people are timid about following through on a mission.

TACTICS: There are reports that U.S. Marines will soon be inside Afghanistan. They will get close to some base and stand by to react, reinforce special forces and take prisoners. Let's say, for example, the Rangers or Green Berets say they're going to get some guys, but we need to cordon off an area -- specifically, block roads and provide reinforcements in case we get bogged down. Marines will provide some much-needed muscle in that case.

Special forces can take out large targets by calling in airstrikes. But as the weather gets tougher and makes it harder to fly and hit targets, you may have to put more guys on the ground. Marines let you take out bigger targets on the ground, with more men and firepower.

STRATEGY: Even on combat duty, 90 percent of the time it's boredom and 10 percent sheer fright, so you think a lot about stuff back home. I missed half the major holidays over my 30-year military career, from Vietnam through Beirut, Desert Storm and the Balkans. I remember decorating a tree in Vietnam with hand grenades and bullets and stuff like that during a monsoon, because the guys in the platoon just wanted to do something for Christmas.

During a real conflict, they are extremely proud to be on the operation. You obviously miss your home and your family, but the higher calling justifies the absence and you find resolve because of that.

When you're deployed, you do as much as you can to celebrate. I used to invite my German and British friends and fellow commanders. And in Bosnia, I'd also invite the Serb generals, the Muslim and the Croatian -- even though they may have hated each other, when they were with me, they had to be polite and get along.

As I said, the U.S. troops are focused. Their perspective changes knowing, in their mind, that we're going to follow through with this. The worst that can happen is that we just back out, which would really hurt the morale of the armed forces.


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.


• Taliban to surrender Konduz
November 22, 2001
• Taliban will fight on in Kandahar: spokesman
November 22, 2001
• Security drawn up for Bonn talks
November 21, 2001

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