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Grange: Too early to judge the battlefield

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange
Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange

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(CNN) -- As critics continue to express doubts about the progress of the war in Iraq, administration officials have defended the campaign and its timeline.

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, a CNN military analyst, discussed the war criticism with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: What do you think, Gen. Grange? Too early to start armchair quarterbacking?

GRANGE: Way too early. There's a lot of time down the road yet. Every day is a day in history, obviously. But it's -- to look back and analyze where they are on the battlefield and how it's going, it's way too early.

COOPER: It does seem to be, though, more than just pundits. I mean, New Yorker tomorrow has an article by Sy Hersh, who's quoting a lot of people inside the Pentagon who are raising some criticisms of the plan. And we're hearing a lot from our embedded reporters in the field, from troops in the field, Marines in the field, who are saying things are different than what they expected.

So is there a "disconnect" between what [Central Command] is telling us and what the troops in the field are experiencing?

GRANGE: I don't think so, Anderson. What happens -- it's a perception issue. For instance, if you went to war and spent a year in war -- let's say you served in Vietnam for one year, or two or three years, whatever, but let's just say one year, that sustained combat, day in and day out, for the entire year -- well, you may get a seven-day leave period, what they call an R&R, a leave time, but it's sustained combat.

And this is nine days. Since Vietnam, there really hasn't been fighting that lasted on the ground a long period of time. So the perception is that countries like the United States or Great Britain can go in, Great Britain in the Falklands as an example, United States in, for instance, Afghanistan, and get something done very quickly.

And it's not going to be that way. It's going to take longer when you have armies this size, resistance rather tough in certain places. It's going to take some time to finish the war.

COOPER: General, a lot of the generals have always been discussing the flexibility of this plan. Just from your vantage point, does the plan seem flexible and flexible enough to accommodate the types of counterattacks we've been seeing in the last couple of days?

GRANGE: There's something in the military called the current operational environment. And what that means is the battlefield changes almost on a daily basis. The battlefield appears the way it's going to be when you get ready to kick off. And then as soon as you start, there are changes that affect that plan.

And they're -- some of the changes are factors you can't change. You can't affect them. You have to live with them, adapt to them.

And so the current operational environment changes on a daily basis, from a lot of influences around that environment, and you have to be flexible if you plan to win. And flexibility is a quality, I know for sure, in the American Army, and having trained with the British, in their army as well.

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange served in the U.S. Army for 30 years. He last served as commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One." In that position, he served in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. During his military career, Grange served as a Ranger and Green Beret. Grange is currently an executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation in Chicago. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd. 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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