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Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd: Winter will slow terrorist war in Afghanistan

By Christy Oglesby

Update: The Northern Alliance is thirsting for conditions that will allow it to make advances on the ground in Afghanistan. But one alliance commander has complained that the U.S. strikes have not been powerful enough to create such conditions. Facing the threat of a harsh winter and heavy snow, the ragtag anti-Taliban fighters await the green light to fight. But the war against terrorism will move on the United States' clock -- it's planning for a marathon, not a sprint in the snow. Meanwhile, the United States repeated that its fight against terrorism will go beyond Afghanistan into other countries -- a sizeable military delegation is helping the Philippines crack down on a group allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden.

Strategy: The frustration of the Northern Alliance is that they want to see something happen quickly. They're going to be hampered by snow and bad weather just like the Taliban are, so they want to see something happen before the bad weather comes, which is the end of the month. We're in a race for time now. When the snows come, it really slows movement down. It makes it very, very difficult to mass any kind of large numbers of forces and move them through that snow. That's why you're hearing statements such as, "This could stretch on into next summer." They are impatient. They want to get moving for their own reasons.

So far the attacks have been against fixed sites around major cities. Now we're starting to move out against the camps, and there are many camps around there. I think I've heard reports of as many as 40 major camps throughout the country. They are very difficult targets and they are dug into the mountains. In fact, we hit one this morning in the area of Darunta. So we are starting to move out now. Now the fielded forces aren't all that handy. Because you can carpet bomb an area but if these guys are dug in individual holes or widely dispersed, it's difficult. So this part will go much slower. But we are starting to move.

Tactics: One of our major concerns and considerations right off the bat here is the (U.S. diplomatic) alliance. I think we will not go simultaneous (in targeting other countries), but rather sequentially. And a lot we'll try to do through diplomacy. You don't want to go in and start bombing in Syria right now because you know there's a Hezbollah stronghold somewhere. You want to try to forge the proper relationship with Syria. The president of Syria appears diplomatically to be reaching out right now. So if we can force a diplomatic change without having to go in and bomb and then let them deal with it in their own country, that would clearly be much preferable.


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