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Kirby: Iraqi Leaders, Troops Will be Force Against ISIL

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 – Any operation in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant "is going to be and must be" an Iraqi-led and Iraqi-manned operation, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today.

Any operation against ISIL will be dependent on the Iraqi military being able to perform the mission, the admiral said during a Pentagon press briefing.

Kirby was speaking about reports that Iraqi forces would take back the city of Mosul from ISIL in April.

No Certain Date for Mosul Offensive

"I just can't put a date certain on there and say it is going to happen at a certain time, nor am I prepared to rule something out and tell you definitively, 'Well, April is out,'" he said.

Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq and ISIL occupied it when they swept out of Syria last year. U.S. Central Command commander Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III has said it will be a tough fight to retake the city.

"We're only going to be able to do it if and when the Iraqis are ready to do it, and that we can ensure success, that we can prevail," Kirby said.

U.S. forces are working to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish peshmerga.

"They are in the fight right now, retaking terrain that ISIL has either recently tried to take, or is trying to defend," Kirby said. "So supply lines up in the north, the peshmerga are cutting off supply lines of ISIL into Syria."

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is very interested in the progress of the train, advise and assist mission, said Kirby, noting Carter is concerned about how well the Iraqis are doing and how many have been trained.

"We've graduated some 2,500 or so [Iraqis] already from this [training]," the admiral said.

And, Carter is interested in how the Iraqis are doing on the battlefield, Kirby said.

"With respect to Mosul, [Carter] doesn't want to go any faster than the Iraqis are ready and no faster than what we can assure ourselves of success," Kirby said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)

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