Irbil, Iraq (CNN)–New U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Saturday that success is more important than timing in any attempt to retake Iraq’s second city, Mosul, from ISIS militants.
Carter spoke on his way to Afghanistan, where he is meeting Afghan leaders and U.S. troops in his first week in the post, having taken over as secretary of defense from Chuck Hagel.
Any operation to take Mosul will be “Iraqi-led and U.S.-supported,” he said.
“It’s important that it be launched at a time when it can succeed and so I think the important thing is that it get done when it can be done successfully. Even if I knew exactly when that was going to be, I wouldn’t tell you,” he said.
“Of course I’m open. I’m always open to advice from our military commanders about the what the best way to achieve success is.
“And that is a question that will come down the road but I think what’s important is that the campaign to retake Mosul succeed and we’re committed to that success and not to a particular timetable.”
Months after Iraqi troops dropped their weapons and ran for their lives in Mosul, up to 25,000 are expected to head back there in April or May to try to retake the city from ISIS, according to a U.S. official.
And Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the BBC this week that while there’s still work to do, he is sure the Iraqis are going to retake the crucial northern city.
“We are now planning an offensive on Mosul in the coming few months,” the Prime Minister said. “We have to prepare for it carefully because the only choice we have in Mosul (is to win). We have to win in Mosul to keep (ISIS) out.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking Saturday in London, said the international community was increasingly determined to act together against ISIS and that progress would continue to be made.
“We have the tools, we have the political will, we have the determination and we are making gains in Iraq. Territory is increasingly beginning to come back into the hands of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi military is now beginning to stand up with greater capacity,” he said.
Read more: CNN