Senators demand answers on leak of Mosul operations
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham sent a letter to President Obama demanding to know who was responsible for a briefing given by CENTCOM officers on an operation to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in the Spring.
They also want to know if the leak was engineered by the White House for political reasons.
“Never in our memory can we recall an instance in which our military has knowingly briefed our own war plans to our enemies,” Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a letter to President Obama.
“These disclosures not only risk the success of our mission, but could also cost the lives of U.S., Iraqi, and coalition forces.”
The senators asked who was responsible for the briefing, conducted Thursday by a military official, and whether they had White House approval. “Those responsible have jeopardized our national security interests and must be held accountable,” they wrote.
The letter follows criticism in other corners that the military may have revealed too much detail in previewing the operation.
On Thursday, the U.S. military official outlined plans to retake Mosul and said the “shaping” for the battle is currently underway. He said the Iraqi military hopes to begin operations in the “April, May timeframe” with the goal of retaking Mosul before Ramadan begins on June 17.
The official then went a step further and leaked that five Iraqi Army brigades will be used in the fight, as well as several smaller brigades, composing a total force of up to 25,000 Iraqi troops. Three brigades of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters will participate as well.
But the details, disclosed at the close of a White House summit on combating violent extremism, raised some concerns.
"That is pretty amazing that that information's out there," retired Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief of staff and a Fox News military analyst, said Friday.
A current and former military intelligence officer also 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.
As it turns out, the Iraqis themselves don't think they're ready to mount such a complex operation. And doubters at the Pentagon point out the potential harm such an operation could cause. Will Iraq's Shiite army fight for a Sunni city?
Less than 24 hours after U.S. military officials publicly detailed their plans for a spring offensive on ISIS-held Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, many within the Pentagon privately questioned whether that timetable was plausible. They said that they were dubious that their partners in the Iraqi military—the troops supposed to lead the offensive—would be capable of conducting such a campaign by then.
“I really doubt it is going to happen that soon,” said one military officer who, like several others, served in Iraq between 2003-2011 and spoke on condition of anonymity. “And if it does, it will take months.”
The largely Shiite troops of the Iraqi army are unlikely to risk their lives to win back a Sunni dominated city, several U.S. military officers told The Daily Beast Friday. Indeed, when ISIS stormed the city last June, Iraqi forces walked away, leading the U.S. and 60 other nations to form a coalition against the terror group.
Even if the Iraqi troops do stand up and fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State, having a Shiite force move in and potentially ravage a major Sunni city in a bid to save it could have adverse affects on the Sunnis in Iraq and broader Sunni Arab world. Sectarian tensions, particularly in Iraq, run that deep.
“I cannot believe that Shiites would fight for Mosul,” one officer who served in the restive Sunni province of Anbar during the Iraq War told The Daily Beast.
The leak is either a monumental blunder or a deliberate disinformation effort to force IS to take fighters away from other battlefronts and send them to Mosul. Either way, the leak was ill thought out and probably did more harm than good.