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Shepperd: Tikrit, cleanup are next

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd

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(CNN) Military operations continue in various parts of Iraq, with Tikrit, a Baath Party stronghold and the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, the only major city not under coalition control.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a CNN military analyst, discussed the situation Saturday and the military's likely next moves.

SHEPPERD: The action is moving from north to south a little bit, toward Tikrit. The north has been basically secured, including the oil fields, and a major problem has been averted there. It appears the Kurdish fighters will withdraw and provide the 173rd Airborne Brigade the ability to go into the Kirkuk oil fields, avoiding a clash with the Turks.

In the Tikrit area, coalition forces are waiting to see if there is really going to be a battle, or if indeed it's going to be a final sigh and the forces melt away. Iraqi forces are being pounded by air right now.

It's the last redoubt of the Tikriti clan in Saddam Hussein's ancestral homeland. That area is probably where Saddam's men his minions would retreat to make a last stand, if there is one.

There is action along the Qaim in the western part of the nation, in the area near Syria. The word from U.S. Central Command is that they have had Qaim under control for a long period of time. Yesterday they went in there and basically called it secured, including a water purification plant and a couple of other facilities like an air defense network. They also found two missiles, and so there is interest that it could have been a weapons of mass destruction site, but they haven't found anything yet there.

They are trying to clean up some of that area and are in Baghdad trying to provide stability. The 101st Airborne Division is moving up, and elements of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines are going to be able to move up toward the Tikrit area as the 101st moves in there.

Elements of the 4th Infantry Division are also moving in from the south now, starting to move into southern Iraq from Kuwait after getting off the ships. There's still cleanup action in the Kut area and Amarah area southeast of Kut. The city is rumored to be turned over to the Marines probably as early as today.

There is lots of action going on around the country, but it looks like the only real fighting area is in the Tikrit area. Everywhere else there is cleanup of pockets of resistance.

It is getting safer to bring in humanitarian aid, so that you can fly the aid in, get it distributed and don't have riots around the spot where it is brought. As security tightens down and starts to develop across the country, you can bring in humanitarian aid everywhere.

Water is the key and then food. All of that is brought in now and starting to happen across the country. You are seeing a familiar pattern from chaos to control.

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd was in the U.S. Air Force for almost 40 years and flew 247 fighter combat missions in Vietnam. He served at the Pentagon as the Air National Guard commander and was directly involved in planning the use of Air National Guard forces during the Persian Gulf War. Shepperd runs a defense consulting firm called The Shepperd Group. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange. 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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