Leadership: November 22, 2002

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Immediately after September 11, 2001, president Bush called for a plan to take down Afghanistan. The Pentagon came up with a fairly conventional response. Their plan involved some Special Forces and CIA operations, but was mostly heavy duty conventional warfare. Basic idea was to drop in the 82nd Airborne Division, grab an "air head," bring in heavier stuff and go after the Taliban. At least one colonel on the Joint Staff objected, and was told, "if you think you can do better go ahead." He did.

When the Joint Staff briefed the president on their plan, the reaction was basically, "is that the best you can do?" The generals allowed as how there was an "alternative" plan, and trotted out the colonel's proposal. The president Bush asked if the command and control (communications with Special Forces and CIA inside Afghanistan) was robust enough to support the operation. When this was confirmed, he gave the go ahead with the plan that was used, which depended largely on Special Forces and the CIA.

Meanwhile, the navy and air force went ahead with their air attacks. They quickly ran out of targets, but it took intervention of some senior Pentagon people to get the bombers to stop looking for more targets from the air and, instead, start hitting what the Special Forces teams could see right in front of them. This was not such a wrenching change for the air force and navy. The air force had air controllers operating with the Special Forces teams, and the navy pilots were well trained to provide bombing support for Marines. But the idea of dozens of bombers flying in circles until a Special Forces team below designated (with a laser), or located (for a GPS guided bomb) targets was something new. But it worked.

 


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