Plan to retake Mosul announced

A very curious briefing by an anonymous officer who works at US Central Command headquarters on plans for a joint Iraqi-Kurdish operation to retake the city of Mosul. Why telegraph your punches? Why let Islamic State know you're coming?

Fox News also interviewed two intelligence officers who couldn't figure out why some anonymous officer at CENTCOM would announce our intentions ahead of time.

A U.S. military official on Thursday outlined plans to retake the key Iraq city of Mosul from Islamic State terrorists as early as April -- an unusual move that immediately drew criticism from two U.S. intelligence officers.

A senior U.S. Central Command official said that the "shaping" for the battle is currently underway. The Iraqi military hopes to begin operations in the "April, May timeframe" and retake the city before Ramadan begins on June 17.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity, said five Iraqi Army brigades will be used in the fight, as well as several smaller brigades, adding up to a total force of up to 25,000 Iraqi troops.

Three brigades of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters will participate as well.

But two military intelligence officers told Fox News that the decision to publicly announce the plan was counterintuitive because it "telegraphs" the timing and number of units involved. The officers said it would allow Islamic State, also known as ISIS, or ISIL, to prepare for the battle by laying improvised explosive devices.

Both officers questioned whether political considerations on the part of the Obama administration factored into the decision to announce the offensive.

Can you imagine some anonymous officer at General Eisenhower's SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) headquarters briefing the press about D-Day?  I have no claim to extensive knowledge of military strategy but I can't think of a single military reason in this case to let the terrorists know we're coming.

Perhaps they think they're putting psychological pressure on the terrorists, but to date, it is the Iraqi army that has shown it is psychologically unable to function in combat. And given what we know about ISIS fighters, I don't think they're quaking in their boots.

There are currently 1-2000 Islamic State fighters in Mosul. After this announcement, you can expect that number to rise significantly.

The CENTCOM official said the U.S. will provide military support for the operation, including training, air support, intelligence and surveillance. The official said there has been no decision made yet on whether to send in some U.S. ground troops to help call in airstrikes.

"But by the same token, if they're not ready, if the conditions are not set, if all the equipment they need is not physically there and they (aren't) trained to a degree in which they will be successful, we have not closed the door on continuing to slide that to the right," he said.

That's a lot of "ifs." We just started retraining Iraqi troops a few months ago, so the chances of them being ready by May aren't very good. Mosul is going to be a meat grinder. It takes a special level of training to succeed in urban combat and it's hard to see Iraqi troops reaching that level any time soon. Fighting in urban battlefields in World War II was a nightmare. They had to develop their own tactics to beat the Germans. They also had no compunction about absolutely destroying a town to liberate it. I doubt Iraqi troops would have a green light to destory Iraq's second largest city.

If this is a political gambit by the administration, it has to do a lot more with convincing the home folks that we're serious about retaking ground won by ISIS than it does with any military strategy.