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Clark: 'Plenty of venom' remains in Baghdad

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark

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(CNN) -- Coalition forces stormed into Baghdad on Monday, seizing one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's main presidential palaces and destroying symbols of the Iraqi regime.

CNN Anchor Paula Zahn spoke Monday with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, a CNN military analyst, about what's next in the battle plan.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about what we've witnessed over the last 24 hours or so, [with] U.S. troops moving inside that perimeter wall that once sort of roped off downtown Baghdad. In addition to that, they've now seized control of a key presidential palace [Monday] morning. What is the battle plan from this point out?

CLARK: It's a strategy of opportunism, it would appear. That is to say, these are reconnaissance-led attacks. We did two reconnaissance forays through Baghdad.

It was clear that the defenses were not substantial. There was limited appearance of an organized defense -- some buses, some hastily laid mine fields -- but no strong resistance.

So for the third effort, the United States troops stormed back in. They moved deeper, they seized facilities, and they intend to hold at least for some period of time these facilities, perhaps use them as an operating base for other moves within Baghdad. ... And piece by piece, take down key regime targets, identify and reduce centers of resistance and persuade the remaining Iraqi forces and militias to lay down their arms.

ZAHN: You just touched on the important question of the method of the light resistance we've seen coming from the Iraqis -- small-arms fire, sniper attacks, ambushes. What does that tell us about the dangers that lie ahead for coalition troops?

CLARK: Well, it says that there is still plenty of venom out there amongst some elements of the Iraqis, perhaps the Fedayeen or other groups loyal to Saddam. But that the organized military-capable resistance probably has been largely defeated.

The Republican Guard forces, which were the real vanguard of the regime's military, have been heavily attacked by air power. They've been penetrated on the ground. Soldiers have taken off their uniforms, blended back into the population. Deserted armored vehicles are being destroyed. So this is now down to sort of individual groups of infantrylike fighters resisting the American incursions.

ZAHN: What about the air campaign from this point on, particularly when you have so many U.S. troops now inside the city's perimeter?

CLARK: It will use close air support techniques, communicating with troops directly on the ground before dropping or engaging targets.

Gen. Wesley Clark was NATO supreme allied commander from 1997 to May 2000. He was also the commander in chief of the U.S. European Command. In 1999, he commanded Operation Allied Force, NATO's military action in the Kosovo crisis. Clark later wrote about his experiences in "Waging Modern War." He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired Brig. Gen. David Grange 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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