Iraqi Defense Minister Slams US Official for Setting Mosul Operation Timeframe

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Published Monday, February 23, 2015

Iraq's defense minister criticized the United States on Sunday for declaring a timeframe for an offensive to recapture the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)'s northern stronghold of Mosul, saying military commanders should not show their hand to the enemy.

Khaled al-Obeidi said the timing of the Mosul assault was for Iraq to decide, and that a US Central Command official who predicted the attack was likely to take place in April or May had no knowledge of the issue.

ISIS fighters seized Mosul last June as they swept through northern Iraq towards Baghdad, meeting virtually no resistance from the Iraqi army — the recipient of $25 million of US military aid — and establishing a self-declared caliphate straddling the border between Iraq and Syria.

The United States and its allies have waged months of airstrikes against ISIS targets and Washington is training up and equipping the Iraqi military to recapture territory. The battle for Mosul — the largest city in northern Iraq — is expected to be pivotal in that struggle.

A US Central Command official said on Thursday that an Iraqi and Kurdish military force of 20,000 to 25,000 troops is being prepared to recapture the city, probably in April or May.

It was highly unusual for the US military to openly telegraph the timing of an upcoming offensive, especially to a large group of reporters.

Asked why the exception was being made for the Mosul offensive, the US official said it was a reflection of the confidence of Iraq, which had devised the battle plan.

"They are absolutely committed to this. There are a lot of pieces that have to come together and we want to make sure the conditions are right. But this is their plan. They have bought into it. They are moving forward as if they will execute in the time frame that I just described," the official said.

But Obeidi declined to confirm that timetable, and expressed irritation at the remarks from the unnamed US official.

"This is urban warfare and we have civilian populations. It is very important to take time and accuracy in setting the plan for this battle," he told a news conference in Baghdad.

"A military official should not reveal the timing of an offensive," he added. "The battle for Mosul starts when preparations are complete, and selecting the time is up to Iraqi military commanders."

Iraqi officials say the Mosul attack will take place within months, but they have often said Baghdad needs greater international military support and have declined to set a date.

"I don't know where the American official got this information... They absolutely do not have knowledge on this issue," Obeidi said.

Following criticism of the US military briefing, the new US defense secretary, Ash Carter, told reporters on Saturday he would not telegraph the precise timing of an offensive to retake Mosul.

Obeidi was speaking as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met the general in charge of US forces in the Middle East, General Lloyd Austin.

Abadi noted that international support to Iraq had increased in recent days, his office said, without giving details. He also pointed to progress "mobilizing and recruiting people in Nineveh, Anbar and Salahuddin to liberate them from terrorist gangs" referring to the main areas of ISIS control.

Obeidi said Iraqi security forces began a military operation on Sunday to drive ISIS fighters out of the western town of al-Baghdadi in Anbar province.

"I believe a major victory will be achieved in the next few hours if our forces maintain a steady advance," he said.

21 Iraqi captives paraded by ISIS

Meanwhile, ISIS released a new video on Sunday purporting to show captured Kurdish peshmerga fighters paraded through Iraqi streets in cages.

The video shows 21 captives presented as 16 peshmerga fighters, two Iraqi army officers and three policemen from Kirkuk, a city about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad.

The captives, in orange jumpsuits with their heads lowered, are led to cages in a square surrounded by concrete walls and masked ISIS fighters carrying pistols.

A bearded man in a white turban warns the peshmerga against fighting ISIS.

Then the caged captives are shown being paraded through the streets on the back of pick-up trucks, as dozens of residents and armed men look on.

The date and location is not specified in the video, but Kurdish sources told AFP it was filmed a week earlier in the main market of Hawija, an ISIS-held town 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Kirkuk.

The video does not contain any explicit threats to the captives but they are shown at the end kneeling before masked men holding automatic weapons or pistols.

A peshmerga commander in Kirkuk, General Hiyowa Rash, told AFP that the peshmerga hostages had been captured on January 31 "when Kurdish fighters repelled a terrorist attack by ISIS targeting Kirkuk."

The video also features images from previous ISIS videos, including of the killing of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh, who was allegedly burned alive in a cage, and the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, mainly from Egypt, in Libya.

ISIS, which has declared a "caliphate" in territories seized in Syria and Iraq, has killed thousands of citizens and soldiers in both countries. It has particularly targeted ethnic and religious minorities, as well as foreign hostages, some of them in highly-choreographed videotaped sequences in which the victims are beheaded.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

IS is tool of the A-Z empire, of course they need to "plan" the "battle":
"...All the implications so far in the public record are that ISIS [IS] is a covert US intelligence operation," Boyle told RIA Novosti Tuesday. "Head of ISIS Abu Bakr Baghdadi spent five years in an American detention facility.."

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