There seems to be confusion lately on exacting what the U.S. military is trying to achieve by releasing information to the public on how they plan on attacking ISIS.
According to U.S. News & World Report, a Pentagon-sanctioned briefing last week released critical details of a coalition operation against a key Islamic State group stronghold in Iraq. The action has left national security experts wondering why the military would go against its custom of not publicly providing information that might be useful to enemy forces seeking to defend against an attack.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a U.S. Central Command senior official told reporters via teleconference from the Pentagon that up to 25,000 Iraqis, along with coalition support, plan on attacking on Mosul sometime this spring. When asked why the U.S. military was releasing the information, the official said, “Just to describe the level of detail that the Iraqi security forces are doing and the level of commitment that they have to this, and the significance of the upcoming operation.”
The announcement was met with scorn from retired top officers as well as members of the U.S. congress.
U.S. News reported that Sen. John McCain, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, co-wrote a derisive letter to President Barack Obama, calling the leak “not only risk the success of our mission, but could also cost the lives of U.S., Iraqi, and coalition forces.”
Co-author Sen. Lindsey Graham asked for an explanation as to how the release happened and called for those involved to be held responsible. She and McCain are known for their criticism of Obama, especially in the areas of military and foreign policies.
“I will not get into those kinds of judgment calls on whether or not or on how Central Command characterized their information,” Pentagon Spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren responded. “We work very closely with our Central Command partners, every single day. Obviously in this case, sometimes it’s impossible to predict specifically what questions will come and what answers will come.” He would not confirm if the Pentagon authorized the announcement.
“What’s important is that Central Command is doing what they can, as are we here in the department. We do what we can to ensure that both you here in the press and the American public understand what it is we’re trying to do,” he added.
Top uniformed military members have a theory that by announcing a future offensive, Central Command may be able to determine if the information it has about the Islamic State group is correct. However, others are in the mind-set that the announcement was ill-advised.
“In my mind, that’s all stupid,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, who held top positions in Iraq and Afghanistan and advised the Iraqi army from 2005 to 2006.
“Either we’ve suddenly cracked the code and are about to demonstrate some skill I haven’t seen for the last 15 years, or we’re just goofing up,” he said. “Unfortunately, I have to go with choice B based on what I’ve seen.”
The announcement will either attract more fighters or give existing ones time to dig in to defensible positions, said Bolger.
“You don’t tell the enemy what you’re doing,” he said. “You just do it to them.”