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Iraq Banner

Military plan 'bold, audacious, prudent'

By Don Shepperd
CNN Military Analyst

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd

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(CNN) -- The press is full of doubts about the campaign and hysterical that we have not won the war in 10 days. I watched today's briefing and shook my head "Why have you outrun your supplies and left yourself vulnerable?" asked the reporter. "Why have you been forced to pause? Are we in danger of a stalemate?"

My mind flooded back to the time I was a 10-year-old boy during the Korean War. MacArthur had just pulled off the Inchon landing. It was a "bold and audacious plan." The allied lines moved north and as they reached the Yalu River, I jumped up and down, "We've won! We've won!" Then, five days later, seven Chinese armies invaded south and drove a wedge between the 8th Army in the west and the 10th Marine Corps in the east, and 50 years later we are still there -- a stalemate. Are there similarities? An emphatic NO!

Every military plan carries calculated risks. You have your own estimate of what enemy capabilities are and what they "might" do. Then operations begin and you react to what the enemy really does.

What has Gen. Franks done? The 3rd of the 7th Cavalry, led by Capt. Judd Lyles, took the lead element of the Third Infantry Division north through withering fire, stopping short of the Republican Guard's Medina division deployed near Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. The supply lines stretch 300 miles from Kuwait and the rear is not secure -- certainly bold and audacious, but prudent, or not? Very prudent is my judgment. What were the alternatives and real risks?

The coalition could have pushed slowly forward, clearing every village along the road, or they could have moved rapidly forward, stopping only if they encountered significant organized military force, which they did not. Wisely, the Third Infantry pushed up the middle, stopping short of the Medina. They are re-fitting, resting and re-supplying while the British encircle Basra, the Marines finish up in Nasiriyah and move up on the right flank towards Kut, and follow-on elements of the 82nd Airborne secure the rear areas and seize an air base west of Nasiriyah as a forward operating base for allied aircraft.

Meanwhile, coalition airpower is pounding deployed Republican Guard divisions all over the country, the 173rd Airborne establishes a toehold for a northern front, the 101st Airborne moves forward on the left flank and attacks the right flank of the Medina, and Special Forces and Rangers operate freely throughout western Iraq, seizing control of a third western airbase that may later be used for forward operations. As operations continue, lead elements of the 4th Infantry Division reach Kuwait ports tonight and their equipment will begin to move into Iraq late next week. The 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Divisions are alerted for deployment. Some pause. Some stalemate.

If we had stopped to clear all the rear areas, we would never reach Baghdad. Imagine if we had stopped to make Afghanistan "safe" before we attacked Taliban and al Qaeda forces. The only real surprise has been the wide deployment and tenacity of the Fedayeen Saddam and their effect on the populace in the southern cities.

Gen. Franks' plan is bold, audacious and prudent. There is some tough fighting ahead, as well as more surprises, but this is hardly a pause and this will not be a stalemate.

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd served in the U.S. Air Force for almost 40 years and flew 247 fighter combat missions in Vietnam. He served at the Pentagon as the Air National Guard commander and was directly involved in planning the use of Air National Guard forces during the Persian Gulf War. Shepperd now runs his own defense consulting firm called The Shepperd Group. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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