Maj. Gen. David Grange: Breaking bin Laden
Update: A lot of Afghans want Osama bin Laden gone now -- the momentum is on our side. If there's hard intelligence on bin Laden or even Taliban ruler Mullah Omar, we definitely would want our forces involved, especially special ops, because of their training.
But even if we have a good plan as to how to cover, fire, maneuver, enter and do demolition, we would want locals to go with us -- as guides and, if possible, to take the credit if he's killed. If a Muslim takes out another Muslim, it'd further discredit al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations around the world.
Besides bin Laden and Omar, there are going to be some al Qaeda lieutenants that aren't as well publicized that we want. I'm sure the CIA has all these names. Even if we got bin Laden, we'd continue looking for these guys. The more people you get, the more you erode the command and control and communication, the weaker al Qaeda gets.
The possibility of al Qaeda fleeing into Pakistan is a major issue. A former mujahedeen commander said one or two cave complexes straddle the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Probably the strongest Pashtun resistance left, besides the pocket in Kandahar, is in Pakistan. I think there's a real fluid movement there, we're watching it closely, and we asked Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to watch it closely. But Musharraf can only control some of his subordinates to a certain extent.
Impact: If an Afghan kills bin Laden, it would be a Muslim taking out another Muslim -- further discrediting al Qaeda and other terrorist organization around the world. That would keep him from being a martyr, because he'd be the foreign invader who used the people of Afghanistan for personal gain. That's the best way to do it and keep down any fallout in the Islamic world. If we could manipulate it that way, it'd be wonderful, and it wouldn't be that hard. When I was in counter-terrorist units and we were invited in by a host nation, you always wanted to give credit to the host nation.
It's a little different about how Omar is killed versus bin Laden. If Omar is killed by us or another international coalition force, it doesn't matter. If you have a Tajik kill Omar, then you've got the Pashtun issues. It would be better if he died at the hands of a Pashtun from southern Afghanistan.
Tactics: Let's say we got intelligence bin Laden was in a cave complex near Jalalabad or near the border. You would have a combination of ground-air assault, with aircraft overhead as you moved forces in by ground. As you get closer to the target, you isolate it, cordon it off and hit any entrances with hell-fire rockets or laser-guided bombs to detonate booby traps and kill enemy forces on the perimeter.
I don't think having hundreds of Afghans looking for bin Laden would complicate our mission, although they would have their work cut out for them. Unless bin Laden was trying to move and someone got lucky and stopped him in a vehicle, it's tough to get him. If he's in a hideout surrounded by hard-core Arab legion fighters, a few Afghans running around with rifles couldn't do much. If we heard some Afghans were after bin Laden, we'd take advantage and offer support. If they can get him, then great.
In general, the Americans there -- except for aid worker types -- want to keep a low profile. Get the combat guys out of the cities and out of the way, so you don't have this appearance as an occupying force.
Strategy: The quicker we kill Omar the better, because he is the key to getting the rest of these Taliban units to change sides. When he goes, that will topple another group. And we want to get into these al Qaeda complexes, whether bin Laden is there or not. We will find significant intelligence that will help us combat terrorism, just like the info on weapons of mass destruction they found in Kabul.
If we got the intelligence bin Laden did flee, you have to admit it. I would stress that he left his people, he abandoned his cause, he left the Taliban high and dry just to protect himself. That's a trust-loyalty-honor issue, and that kind of stuff is a sign of death in the Muslim world. Bin Laden's credibility would go to zip.
With all that's going on, we can't have a lull in bombing. We've got to keep taking out targets, watching collateral damage and maintaining the pressure. I would deceive them with the Marines so they think we're in more places than we are, start rumors about defections even if they aren't true, and start getting this humanitarian aid out to the Afghan people.
You can't just throw out some bags of rice and then start killing some bad guys and not do anything else. It's too easy for it to reverse on you like in Somalia -- we've got to keep the momentum going, and let the Afghan people know what we're doing. We're stripping support for bin Laden away slowly but surely, and when he loses that, you break him.
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.
EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN is sensitive to reporting any information that could endanger lives or operations.
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