US officials continue to hype the “spring offensive” during which the Iraqi government will try to retake the largest ISIS-held city, Mosul. Increasingly, they are conceding that US ground troops will be playing a role, though exactly how big of a role is somewhat unclear.
The official plan right now is to deploy five Iraqi brigades, 25,000 troops, against the city where between 1,000 and 2,000 ISIS fighters are setting up defenses. More ISIS reinforcements are likely.
Despite hugely outnumbering ISIS, the ineffectiveness of Iraq’s ground troops has many US officials, and even some Iraqi military leaders, saying they probably won’t be able to handle it on their own, even with Kurdish help.
And even with heavy US air support, US officials are saying US ground troops are to be brought in “if necessary,” and almost everyone believes it will be necessary, as ISIS isn’t going to give up Mosul without a fight.
In recent weeks the US has been massing a large number of combat troops in Kuwait for just such an eventuality, and within the next couple of months seems to have a ready-made excuse for launching the ground war they’ve repeatedly “ruled out.”
The most recent indications from US officials are that the attack on Mosul will be happening some time around April. ISIS has held Mosul since late summer, and with so much lead time has had plenty of opportunity to shore up its defenses.