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Maj. Gen Don Shepperd: 'Exceedingly dangerous' mission

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

Update: The ground troops that are confirmed by our high defense officials are supposedly Special Forces troops. They could be setting the stage for many more troops coming, as well. Remember, we've reportedly got the 10th Mountain Division in Uzbekistan. That division has 12,000 in it, so you could bring them in quickly and deploy them.

Also, you've reportedly got Special Forces on the Kitty Hawk, with their helicopters, south of Afghanistan. So it would be apparent that the first troops that go in would be small teams to secure and do specific things. Ideally, those things will be designed to do those, cut off the movement of forces and re-supply forces in the field.

It's exceedingly dangerous. Remember, these are small teams, so you can put a small team of guys in -- maybe up to a dozen -- and if they meet larger forces, these people are tough, but they are not invulnerable by any means. They can get killed and they can get captured. We donít send people on suicide missions, but we send them on very high risk, so although they are very good, we can expect losses. There's no question about that.

We may or may not hear about these losses. The losses that come with war are people killed and people captured. We can expect both of those to happen. Anytime you insert small teams, they're in extreme danger, no question about it.

Impact: The pressure on the Taliban is grossly increasing. They are being cut off from their communications, from their headquarters. Their supply dumps are being hit. Their gasoline and oil are being taken away. We will begin operations against their fielded forces and if we get involved in ground combat, we can provide close air support with tactical aircraft. And also the AC-130 is deployed to the area, so this changes the equation greatly. They have to react wherever we are, and any time they react to where we are, they have to mask their troops to do that and they become a target for our air power.

Tactics: These are not forces that you put in there to fight; these are forces that go after specific targets. The idea is, if you look at the three real strongholds right now Ė you've got Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, Kabul, and Kandahar, and a fourth one, Herat in the northwest -- if you can cut communications and supplies between Kandahar and Herat, if you can have the Northern Alliance advance and cut off the forces between Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, and then if you can insert Special Forces teams and cut off retreat of the forces from Kabul down to Kandahar, you've really crippled and totally altered the military balance there.

We've been gathering intelligence over a long period of time. Reportedly, Special Forces have been in there and they've also been observing and watching. They were also communicating with partisan Northern Alliance and other opposition groups, finding out where key people and key things are. So they will likely go in and try to blow up these key things, capture or kill these key people and make it so the Taliban forces cannot move rapidly. And if they do so, report them in their movement so that air power can take them out.

Strategy: The long-term strategy is to weaken the Taliban so that it collapses, so that the Northern Alliance and other opposition groups can essentially take over the country. There were reports this morning that the Northern Alliance has said that they will not capture Kabul until a coalition government has been agreed upon. If that is true, that's an enormously positive step, because marching in and taking over Kabul and being the owner of the country would be resisted by many of the other opposition groups. This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act that we're trying to do here.


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

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN is sensitive to reporting any information that could endanger lives or operations.


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