Pentagon now says no attack to take Mosul this spring

After leaking plans to attack Islamic State and retake Iraq's second largest city of Mosul this April, the Pentagon is pulling back from the target date for the attack because the Iraqi army is far from being ready.

Tentative plans now call for a fall offensive on Mosul, but even that date may slip given the inadequacies of the Iraqi army.

Daily Beast:

The shift away from the Spring began in the last few days, in part because officials could not agree publicly about whether the Iraqi forces would be ready for the fight. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that it would be “six to nine months, best estimate,” before Iraqi forces could be able to launch a major counteroffensive against ISIS.

“When we talk about the six to nine months additional training, it is to deal with an urban fight, which is very, very different, very complex, requires a great deal of skill, great deal of precision to be successful,” Stewart said.

The timeline is expected to come up publicly again Tuesday when Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Dempsey isn’t expected to address the timeline for such an offensive directly. Rather, he’ll argue against the potential “rush to failure,” as one defense official explained.

In addition to the unreadiness of Iraqi forces to move on Mosul, there were other problems with the early timeline:

There were sectarian considerations, as well. The Iraqi divisions who would likely lead such a campaign are majority Shiite forces; Mosul is a Sunni-dominated town and such sectarian delineations are important to all involved. Many worried that Sunnis in both Iraq and the broader Arab world would not accept a Shiite-dominated military force leading the campaign.

Still others were angry that the U.S. military decided to telegraph the mission and the details of it. Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham blasted the announcement in a letter to President Obama, calling the disclosure a risk to “the success of our mission, but could also cost the lives of U.S., Iraqi, and coalition forces.”

The Iraqi army had suffered humiliating defeats last year at the hands of Islamic State. What possessed Pentagon planners to believe they would be ready to mount a complex urban campaign by the spring of this year? Clearly, there is some wishful thinking going on in the administration who appear to be desperate to score a major victory against IS.

That fall date is likely to slip as well, as the disorganized Iraqi army is retrained and re-equipped. Will the shias really fight for a sunni town? At this point, it seems unlikely as shia militias are terrorizing sunnis across Iraq. Only a professional army adept at urban combat has a chance of levering Islamic State out of Mosul This suggests that American troops will have a much larger role in an operation to retake Mosul than the administration is willing to admit.

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