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WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. forces are aggressively targeting remaining Iraqi army units in the northern part of the country, the Pentagon said Thursday.
"They are the last significant formations on the battlefield that we're aware of," said Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He said the Iraqi forces' capability has dropped significantly "both from casualties and from people just leaving the battlefield."
Remaining in the north are units of both the Republican Guard and Iraq's regular army, McChrystal told a Pentagon briefing.
"We have been targeting them aggressively," McChrystal said.
He said it was possible that a large force loyal to Saddam was regrouping in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown and power base.
"We are prepared to be very, very wary of what they may have and prepare for a big fight," McChrystal said.
He said that, if necessary, U.S. Marine and Army units could be sent from Baghdad to Tikrit, which is about 100 miles north of the capital.
McChrystal said U.S. commanders were trying to "judge their strength" to determine what air defenses the city's defenders may still have in place. "We're trying to take that down," he said.
"It's hard to tell" exactly how many troops and military equipment Iraq has in the north, McChrystal said.
"They have been significantly degraded...as time passes," he added.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)