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Re-examining Tora Bora

Don Shepperd is a former U.S. Air Force major general and now a military analyst for CNN.  

UPDATE: The eastern alliance has essentially finished fighting the al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Tora Bora area. Those people have mostly vanished, fleeing to other locations. So what you've got now is a manhunt going on in the Tora Bora area and in the area south toward Pakistan where people are obviously fleeing.

IMPACT: In response to (the fleeing), it's apparent that General Franks is going to deploy several hundred more U.S troops. The announcement was Marines, but many troops are capable of doing this, including Special Forces, regular Army, Rangers. The purpose of the deployment of forces is to go cave by cave through the Tora Bora area for several reasons. One reason is to see if anybody is still there, including of course the big prize, (Osama) bin Laden himself. The other is to get intelligence, and the other would be to obviously close any of the caves we wanted to close because of where they are or because of what they contain, so they couldn't be used again.

STRATEGY: It's impractical to close all the caves. But on the other hand, a cave by cave search is what we are doing, and of course it is possible, I suppose, that bin Laden could be there still, but I doubt it. In addition, there are many other areas of Afghanistan to be searched and still military things going on. Reportedly, (Taliban leader Mullah) Omar has fled to Helmand province, northwest of Kandahar. And basically those areas are peppered with caves just like Tora Bora. They've been used before by al Qaeda and Taliban, so it's very likely that Omar could be there or perhaps bin Laden. Further, the Maruf area, north of Spin Boldak on the Pakistan border, is another area with reportedly many caves. So what this amounts to is going in and rooting out anybody that might be remaining. It's very, very dangerous work. They will be using night vision devices. They will be using concussion devices. They will be asking for people to surrender if they are in there. Many of these caves, it's likely, will be booby-trapped or mined so it's going to be very dicey work.

The other reason you are searching these caves is to see if anyone was killed in there, whether it's bin Laden or anybody else -- if you can find anybody in there that's dead that can be identified that might be useful to us. The purpose of the cave search is intelligence -- find anyone remaining, and also to hunt for the big prizes of bin Laden and Omar and assure they are not there.

TACTICS: At the same time as these fleeing targets emerge -- and I am talking about groups of people who have fled from the Tora Board or other regions -- and we get intelligence it is likely we will be attacking these by air. Reportedly, there was an attack on a convoy this morning, reportedly of senior Taliban leaders. We have to see what the results of that are.


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

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