WASHINGTON—There are signs that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL or ISIS) is in decline as the U.S. prepares a massive attack to retake Mosul from the jihadists, according to a U.S. Central Command official.
“Militarily, ISIL is in decline,” declared an unnamed Centcom official on Thursday while speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on background.
He did not provide specific details on how much territory the jihadists have regained.
“I would be hard-pressed to speculate on how much they actually control,” said the official.
“Our estimate [inside of Iraq] is somewhere between 700 and 800… square kilometers is what Iraqi security forces have taken back from what ISIL had in the beginning of this thing,” he added.
Centcom oversees the U.S.-led fight against ISIS.
The U.S. is assembling and training a force of between 20,000 and 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops to launch an attack within the next five weeks to retake Mosul, Iraq, from the estimated 1,000 to 2,000 ISIS fighters there, revealed the U.S. official.
In what has been described by some as a warning to ISIS, the U.S. military official unveiled details behind the massive plan to retake Mosul.
The attack force would consist of five Iraqi brigades awaiting training: three Kurdish Peshmerga brigades, a force of mostly Mosul police officers, and special operations troops from Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service.
According to the U.S. military official, the operation is expected to begin in April or May.
If training is not completed, the attack will be delayed, added the official.
A U.S.-led coalition has been bombing ISIS targets in Iraq since August. Kurdish and Iraqi forces have been fighting the terrorists on the ground.
Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq, and it has been under the control of ISIS since June. It is the largest city in ISIS’s self-declared “caliphate,” which also includes large swaths of Syria.
The U.S.-led coalition has been launching airstrikes against ISIS in Syria since September.
John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and others have criticized the decision to reveal details behind the plan to retake Mosul.
“Now we tell the enemy when, where & with what forces we will attack them – unbelievable,” wrote Sen. McCain on his Twitter account.