Briefing predicted a Mosul offensive likely to start in April or May, involving 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces
A US military official who briefed news media about
Iraq's upcoming offensive to retake Mosul provided inaccurate information but
should never have publicly discussed war plans anyway, Defense Secretary Ash
Carter said on Tuesday.
Carter's criticism of the February news briefing by
an official from the US military's Central Command was accompanied by an
assurance from the top US military officer to Congress that the matter was
subject to an internal inquiry.
"That clearly was neither accurate
information, nor had it been accurate, would have it been information that
should have been blurted out to the press. So it's wrong on both scores,"
Carter, who took over as defense secretary in February, told a hearing by the
Senate Armed Services Committee.
Two influential Republican senators on the
committee, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, sent a letter to the White House on
Feb. 20, complaining about the briefing, which predicted a Mosul offensive
likely to start in April or May, involving 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish
US officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of
anonymity, have since suggested that timing could slip to the fall.
Mosul, which had a population of more than 1
million people, was captured by ISIL fighters in June and is the largest city
in the group's self-declared caliphate, a stretch of territory that straddles
the border between northern Iraq and eastern Syria.
Carter described the briefing about the Mosul
offensive as "an instance of speculation." He declined to offer a
timeline, saying Iraqi forces would go into Mosul when they were ready.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said Central Command would "take the appropriate
action" once the inquiry was complete.