An Iraqi and Kurdish military force of some 20,000 to 25,000 troops is being prepared to recapture the city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters, probably in the April-May time frame, an official at the U.S. Central Command said on Thursday.
The official said Mosul was currently being held by 1,000 to 2,000 Islamic State fighters. No decision has been made on whether small numbers of U.S. military advisers might need to be on the ground close to Mosul to direct close air support, the official told a group of reporters on condition of anonymity.
On the one hand, this announcement makes it clear to the American public that the US and its partners are thinking seriously about the threat of ISIS and planning a counteroffensive accordingly. This will perhaps alleviate some fears that the president isn’t doing all he can to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the terrorist group. On the other hand, this gives our enemies an alarming amount of information about a proposed -- and tentatively scheduled -- major engagement. Is this a good idea? Over to you, Richard Engel (via WFB):
"It [the plan] sounds good, but there are enormous questions."
Engel seems less concerned about the announcement per se and more concerned about the preparedness of Iraqi and Kurdish forces. He sees a number of potential pitfalls with such a plan, as etched out on paper, that may, in fact, prove problematic if carried out in practice. Also, as noted above, our allies will likely have superior numbers when they commence the operation -- but if the siege is being broadcast across the world this early in advance, can there be any doubt ISIS' leadership will bolster their defenses before the battle begins?
This could be another complicating factor added to the mix, especially if US ground troops aren't necessarily sitting on the sidelines during the operation. After all, it appears they may not be.