Iraq says it alone will decide on Mosul offensive

Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite fighters gather during deployments in the town of Hamrin, in the Salahuddin province March 3, 2015.

Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite fighters gather during deployments in the town of Hamrin, in the Salahuddin province March 3, 2015.

Iraq’s defense minister said on Wednesday only Baghdad will decide the time and scale of an attack recapture Mosul, after U.S. officials sent conflicting signals about the offensive.

Mosul is the largest city under the control of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents who have declared a cross-border caliphate encompassing eastern Syria and parts of western and northern Iraq. Its recapture would be a pivotal victory for Baghdad.

A U.S. Central Command official said two weeks ago that the offensive could start in April or May, using 20,000 to 25,000 troops. U.S. officials have since suggested that timing could slip to the autumn.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday the original briefing was inaccurate and that military officials should not discuss war plans in any case.

“The liberation process will be purely Iraqi in terms of forces, timing, weapons and equipment,” Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi told a news conference in Baghdad alongside visiting Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz.

“No one (else) has anything to do with it. This is our battle, the battle of the Iraqi army,” Obeidi said. “The role of the U.S.-led coalition is to provide air support, and this is agreed upon.”

Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, is close to the border with Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday that Ankara had sent two planes to Baghdad this week carrying military equipment requested by Iraq. His defense minister said Turkey was prepared to offer further support.

“We stand by Iraq in any operation to be launched against Mosul. Turkey is ready to give every kind of intelligence and logistics support to Iraq is in its struggle against terrorism,” broadcaster NTV quoted Yilmaz as saying.


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