BAGHDAD - Iraq's defense minister criticized the United States on Sunday for declaring a time frame for an offensive to recapture the Islamic State's northern stronghold of Mosul, saying military commanders should not show their hand to the enemy.
Khaled al-Obeidi said the timing of the Mosul assault was for Iraq to decide, and that a US Central Command official who predicted the attack was likely to take place in April or May had no knowledge of the issue.
Islamic State fighters seized Mosul last June as they swept through northern Iraq towards Baghdad, meeting virtually no resistance from the army and establishing a self-declared caliphate straddling the border between Iraq and Syria.
The United States and its allies have waged months of air strikes against Islamic State targets and Washington is training up and equipping the Iraqi military to recapture territory. The battle for Mosul - the largest city in northern Iraq - is expected to be pivotal in that struggle.
A U.S. Central Command official said on Thursday that an Iraqi and Kurdish military force of 20,000 to 25,000 troops is being prepared to recapture the city, probably in April or May.