WASHINGTON – Plans to retake Iraq’s second-largest city from Islamic State fighters may not be ready to begin this spring as some U..S. military officials have forecast, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.
Kerry, the top U.S. diplomat, dismissed an estimate from a Central Command official that an offensive to reclaim Mosul could begin as early as April .
“That has been contradicted and I think walked back,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “We will do it when the moment is right and we know we can proceed forward.”
When pressed to give a time estimate, Kerry said, “I’m not going to get into timetables. It will happen.”
An official from Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, told reporters at a Feb. 19 briefing that an offensive for Mosul could begin in April or May. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. would train 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi troops to defeat 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from Islamic State, the radical Sunni group that declared a self-styled caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.
The official said the spring starting date could be delayed if more time is required for training.
The battle for Mosul would be the first major test for Iraqi forces since thousands fled as Islamic State extremists swept across northern Iraq last year.
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