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Shepperd: Coalition in transition

'The dog has caught the car'

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

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(CNN) -- As assaults continued against remaining Iraqi strongholds Friday, the U.S.-led coalition forces stepped further into their new roles of securing a now-leaderless nation.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a CNN military analyst, discussed what the military will change and what it will not change, including the search for American prisoners of war.

SHEPPERD: It will be very difficult for Central Command to calibrate its war plan to everything taking place in the country now. The dog has caught the car.

What do you do when you catch a car? War involves fairly straightforward military operations. You have objectives of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and you know what to do -- take those objectives and do them.

But running a country and setting up the political processes to run that country -- things such as currency, banking, law and order -- is extremely difficult. The transition between the military and the Iraqi people who will continue on is just going to take some time. There are a lot of dirty hands involved throughout the country and the process, particularly in Baghdad.

The U.S. military is focused right now on combat operations, cleaning up the remaining pockets of resistance that exist in Baghdad, in the outlying cities and, of course, further north toward Tikrit. They are in a no-win situation. The people hold them responsible for establishing law and order, and yet, if they shoot the looters, the people are going to hold them responsible for shooting the looters.

This chaos will go on for a few more days certainly, but the Iraqi society is so organized that perhaps we will see a shorter period of time than we've seen in other countries in the past.

Right now, I don't think you could have enough forces to do what you need to do the military operations and the police operations. What the forces need is time time to continue with military operations, to do what the military can do, and then to bring in civil affairs experts who will work with the local population to establish law and order themselves.

Some of their work will be bringing back some of the police force that was in place before, and some of it will be creating new police forces. The Iraqis have to take over police operations, and coalition forces are confident they will take that action as soon as they feel secure.

POW search will go on

One important operation that will continue will be the search for American POWs. I certainly hope they are still alive. I don't have any inside information, but you can be assured there are teams on the ground, racing to follow up every lead that can be gained from prisoner interrogations or anywhere else.

The good news is whoever has these people would curry great favor with coalition forces if they turned them over, especially if they turned them over quickly and in good health.

If you followed the coverage of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch's rescue, you saw they obviously had a team well organized in a very short period of time. It took them less than a day to go do it after spending a long time watching and listening.

They simply don't have the key lead right now that says where the remaining POWs are. As soon as they get that key lead, I am positive they have teams organized to go in and secure the facility and get the POWs out soon.

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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