Iraqi Ground Offensive to Retake Mosul Could Be Launched as Early as April

New details on Iraqi ground offensive to retake Mosul.

The official provided unusually detailed plans in a briefing for Pentagon reporters about the long-awaited push by Iraqi forces to retake Iraq’s second-largest city from the 1,000 to 2,000 ISIS fighters believed to there. The plans to launch an offensive in April or May are ahead of predictions made last October by U.S. Centcom officials that an offensive might not occur for another year.

As many as 12 Iraqi Army brigades or between 20,000 to 25,000 troops would be involved in retaking the city that was seized by ISIS in June, said the official.

A “Mosul fighting force” consisting mostly of former Mosul police officers and some tribal elements are currently being trained to provide stability operations after the main fighting has occurred, the U.S. military officials said. Another brigade of elite counter-terrorism forces will also be involved in the offensive.

“The five Iraqi brigades will all go through our training sites before we commence the operation on Mosul,” said the official. The U.S. has established five training sites for Iraqi and Kurdish brigades.

In coming weeks, the 3,200 Iraqi Army troops currently receiving training will replace the 10,000 troops that will be trained for the attack on Mosul, the official said. Training schedules may have to be adjusted to facilitate plans for an offensive in April or May.

U.S. military officials are typically reticent in providing details about the timing or force levels of planned military offensives. When asked why so many details about the planned offensive were being provided, the official said it was “to describe the level of detail that ISF are doing and the level of commitment that they have to this and the significance of this upcoming operation.”

But telegraphing details of the plan could also be an element of psychological warfare against ISIS given the numbers of Iraqi forces that would take on a much smaller force inside Mosul.

“There is no organization in the world that can suffer those kinds of casualties and not have a tremendous impact on their ability to achieve their long term aims,” said the official, describing ISIS as being in a “zero-sum game” where it can no longer position forces without having to take them out of other fighting positions.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday that 1,200 potential trainees were being screened by U.S. Central Command and that training could begin as early as mid-March.