CBSN

Generals: Long War Ahead

The hollow statue's legs are snapped, and most of it tilts down and hangs off its large pedestal, April 9, 2003.
AP
The felling of a statue of Saddam Hussein could be a hint of the imminent fall of his regime, but even the eventual defeat of the dictator does not mean American troops will be on their way home, military analysts warned Wednesday.

As crowds celebrated in the streets of the Iraqi capital — cheering American troops, destroying symbols of Saddam's rule, and looting — CBS News analysts and retired officers Gen. (ret.) Joseph Ralston and Col. (ret.) Mitch Mitchell offered their thoughts on the fighting so far, and to come.

Ralston believes "the regime has fallen but the fighting is not over." He notes in particular Tikrit and areas of the north where there will be fighting; in Tikrit, some of that will come from the air.

There is also the potential for serious, expanded fighting over oil in the north. A dispute between the Kurds and the Turks over those reserves could influence the Turkish decision about entering Iraq, Ralston says.

Mitchell feels the capture of Baghdad, when it occurs, will be more of a beginning then an end.

He notes: "This is not the end of the war, but it is very close to it. It is a great psychological victory to topple statue of Saddam that was erected to himself in 2001."

"Bringing it down is symbolic of the fall of the regime — that the regime no longer is in control of the country," Mitchell said. Other indications the regime has fallen include the lack of government structure in Baghdad and the outbreak of looting.

However, Mitchell argues that the end of this war signals the beginning of the next war in Iraq, one dominated by terrorism and factional fighting.

"Those who believe in the Saddam and the Baath party ideology will go underground. There will be hardliners that will not give up. These terrorist attacks will be made on the American temporary government and on interim Iraqi administrations," he predicts.

"We are looking at a good decade to overcome the terrorism," Mitchell says. "But there will also be a new spirit of something like nationalism, at least the spirit of free people."