RETAKING MOSUL: How Feasible is the U.S. Plan to Kick Out the Islamic State?


Could the US Military be putting on a ruse for the Islamic State or do you think this is their actual plan?

The Pentagon plan for a major ground assault to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State is bold, ambitious — and perplexing.

The Obama administration has set a goal of helping Iraq regain control of its territory and borders by the end of this year, and ousting the Sunni Muslim extremists from the country’s second-largest city — one Islamic State calls a capital of its caliphate — would be a major objective.

And there is no question that a successful U.S.-backed assault with 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops on a major urban center, should it occur, would mark a turning point in a shadowy war that has been largely limited to airstrikes and small skirmishes deep in the desert.

Whether the military blueprint is feasible is far from certain, however.

Under the outline disclosed Thursday to reporters, the assault could begin as early as April or May. Advisors with the U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces would help train and equip five Iraqi army brigades, each with about 2,000 troops, to serve as the main attack force. The brigades are to be drawn from battle-hardened units now on duty in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Iraqi counter-terrorism commandos would join the attack, while three brigades of Kurdish peshmergafighters would try to seize approaches to the city from the north and west. Three Iraqi brigades would be held in reserve.

The U.S. military official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said Iraqi and Kurdish commanders “are absolutely committed to this.” He said the goal is to launch the attack before the heat of summer and the start of Ramadan in mid-June.

But Mowaffak Rubaie, Iraq’s former national security advisor and now a member of the parliament in Baghdad, seemed skeptical that Iraq will have sufficient capable troops so quickly.

“I believe this ‘leak’ is for diversional tactics and is not practical,” Rubaie wrote in an email. “My estimate is Iraqi security forces would be probably ready by the end of this year or even early next year.”

Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops abandoned their weapons and fled last year when far smaller forces of militants approached. Mosul fell with barely a fight in June, and only about 2,000 militants are believed to control the city.

Any attempt to retake the city now probably would require house-to-house fighting and U.S. air support, including airstrikes and intelligence, against an entrenched foe.

Even if the Pentagon decides to send U.S. special operations troops into the battle to help direct U.S. airstrikes, commanders are unlikely to approve bombing runs that could cause heavy civilian casualties. Iraqi troops thus would assume a greater burden of evicting the militants and securing the city.

The decision to share details and timing of the attack plan raised eyebrows in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. Critics said it was a political ploy by the administration to rebut charges that it has yet to score major gains against Islamic State.

Read more: LA Times

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