- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Pentagon has launched an internal inquiry into a military official who briefed reporters in detail on the strategy that Iraqi forces planned to use to free Mosul, Iraq, from the grip of Islamic State militants.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told senators during a Tuesday congressional hearing that Gen. Lloyd Austin, who oversees military operations in the Middle East, launched the inquiry into the briefing within the past few weeks.

The official disclosed multiple specific details about the pending large-scale operation to more than 30 reporters during a Feb. 19 background briefing.

Senators pressured Gen. Dempsey and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for assurances that detailed information of a similar nature would never again make its way into the public sphere.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, blasted the Pentagon duo for treating the incident as if it were a sensitive investigation that would require lengthy research time.

“This was not a leak,” the Arkansas Republican said. “I mean it was a planned conference call with the members of the media, if I understand the reporting correctly.”

The military official told reporters that a force of 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi security forces, Kurdish fighters and regional police expected to descend upon Mosul and battle the 1,000 to 2,000 Islamic State militants who reside in Iraq’s second largest city. The official provided reporters with the size, scope and expected timing of the attack.

“The mark on the wall that we are still shooting for is the April/May time frame,” the official said. “There’s still a lot of things that need to come together and as we dialogue with our Iraqi counterparts, we want them to go in that time frame because if you get into Ramadan in the summer in the heat, it becomes problematic if it goes much later than that.”

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