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Special Forces drop into Afghanistan

(CNN) -- U.S. Special Forces, including Army Rangers, attacked and destroyed targets in Afghanistan late Friday and Saturday, according to the Pentagon. CNN's Catherine Callaway spoke with retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom to get more insight on this mission. Odom is former director of the National Security Agency and now directs national security studies at the Hudson Institute.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY: We saw some incredible video from the Rangers dropping into Afghanistan. Tell us more about this kind of mission. We saw that they were carrying ... quite a bit there. Are they heavily armed troops?

ODOM: They are very heavily armed for light infantry. They qualify as light infantry, but they're better armed than any other light infantry we have, and the range of specialized weapons is quite wide, so they can do some fairly remarkable things that ordinary troops can't do.

CALLAWAY: Give us an idea of some of the things that they can do.

ODOM: Well, they can open up difficult places to get into. They're very good at demolitions. They have all sorts of night vision capabilities.

I think, more than anything else, it's their very special training. Every one of these soldiers and officers has had to perform outstandingly in some other unit. There is no better trained organization. The kind of raid that you've just witnessed there is practiced frequently by the Rangers. So, for them, this is sort of standard operating procedure. In a real mission, however, it's very high risk, but...

CALLAWAY: Yes ... there was some report that there was some Taliban resistance, but you're saying these Rangers were more than prepared for this type of encounter?

ODOM: Well, I think it's the finest light infantry in the world. Now, the Afghans, sure, they're great fighters, but they haven't been up against this kind of capability before. The Soviets had no units of any size, maybe some small commando intelligence ... units, but nothing compared to the capabilities of these (units) have the Taliban or other Afghan units faced before.

CALLAWAY: Now general, we heard ... that there's no word from the Pentagon on how these troops were removed. In your opinion, do you think they are still operating in that region?

ODOM: Well, they can come out any number of ways. One of your commentators just suggested that they secured an air base or an air field -- that an airplane could have landed and taken them out; that's possible. Helicopter extraction is possible. These troops are quite capable of marching 30 miles in one night. They might march out, so there are any number of ways that they can be withdrawn. They might move from this place to another place and be picked up at some other site.

CALLAWAY: Yes, I was getting ready to ask you if they could be moving to another location to possibly set up another base. Could they, indeed, be setting up a base of operation there when they drop in?

ODOM: They could. Not only that, I heard the Pentagon correspondent say that officials there say there will be no maintenance of forces in Afghanistan for any period. These kinds of forces could easily secure an air field where a fairly large ground force could be put in, which could defend itself and stay for a while and come out. The number of things that can be done with this kind of capability is fairly wide, and they're easy to tailor (to) a wide range of special missions, special objectives.

CALLAWAY: So, it's possible that it could be the beginning of a ground war?

ODOM: Well, it's not possible; you just saw it. It's on the ground.

CALLAWAY: A larger (ground war), I should say.

ODOM: Well, they can modify the number of these kinds of missions. I would not be surprised to see a more enduring U.S. ground presence in Afghanistan once we have some Afghan units that seem to be having a great success and can secure some territory. However, these forces could secure an air head which then could be reinforced and maintained for quite some time against anything that the Taliban could probably rally against it.


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