- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

The timing of the long-awaited assault to retake Mosul from Islamic State control will fall on the shoulders of Iraqi security forces, not American commanders, the Pentagon said Thursday.

“The movement into Mosul is something that is going to be determined by the Iraqi security forces,” Defense Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.

“This is their timeline, it’s their battle plan, it’s their country and their territory, and we will be in support of them in whatever timeline or sequencing of operations they plan to take,” he told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon.

His comments came in response to statements by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that the capture of Mosul will take much longer than anticipated.

“They’ve lost a lot of territory [and] we’re killing a lot of their fighters,” Mr. Clapper said of U.S.-led operations in Iraq against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, during an interview with The Washington Post.

“We will retake Mosul, but it will take a long time and be very messy. I don’t see that happening in this administration,” Mr. Clapper said, adding Washington will “be in a perpetual state of suppression for a long time” against the Islamic State, long after Mosul, Raqqa and other areas are wrested from the group’s control.

His comments contrasted President Barack Obama’s claims that U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces will retake Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State by the end of the year.

“My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS News last month. “As we see the Iraqis willing to fight and gaining ground, we must make sure that we are providing them more support.”

Mr. Clapper’s comments come after a rash of Islamic State suicide bombings rocked the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and southern parts of the country.

At least 63 people were killed and more than 80 wounded after a massive car bomb ripped through a crowded market in Sadr City in the eastern part of the city.

The Islamic State quickly claimed credit for the attack, which took place less than a week after followers of influential Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Ṣadr, after whom Sadr City is named, breached the highly-fortified “Green Zone” in a show of defiance against Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government.

The protest coincided with another suicide attack in Baghdad, killing at least 18 Shi’ite pilgrims who were commemorating the anniversary of the death of a revered imam.

On Tuesday, Capt. Davis said U.S. and Iraqi forces can expect more of these types of terrorist attacks as the campaign to drive the Islamic State out of Mosul gains steam.

“What I think we are talking about … is terrorist attacks and this is something we can expect ISIS is going to continue to do” as Iraqi and U.S. forces prepare for the Mosul assault, he said.

Capt. Davis did point out the recent string of suicide bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country were designed to further destabilize the al-Abadi regime, and not a sign that the Islamic State was attempting to retake ground lost to U.S. and Iraqi forces.

“I do not think this is indicative that this is the type of offensive toward regaining territory,” Capt. Davis said of the recent wave of attacks inside Baghdad and elsewhere across the country.

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