At a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reprimanded a military official at Central Command for publicly disclosing plans to capture Mosul.
“That clearly was neither accurate information, nor had it been accurate, would have it been information that should have been blurted out to the press,” Carter stated, according to Reuters. “So it’s wrong on both scores.”
Carter quickly downplayed the importance of the plans by calling them “speculation,” and further declined to specify when Iraqi forces will launch an offensive against the Islamic State in Mosul. According to Carter, the offensive will start when Iraqi forces are ready and not a moment before.
The original disclosure came in the form of a military official telling reporters on February 19 that the force would composed of around 25,000 Iraqi security forces, Kurdish fighters, and police, facing between 1,000 to 2,000 Islamic State fighters.
The official stated that the offensive would begin in April of this year, confusing Carter, who immediately came under fire for the disclosure. However, Carter reassured the media that the timing of the offensive is still in the works. “Even if I knew exactly when that was going to be, I wouldn’t tell you,” he stated.
The day after the bizarre disclosure, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, sent a letter to President Barack Obama demanding an explanation for why military plans, describing the Mosul offensive to oust the Islamic State from the region, ended up in public hands.
“Never in our memory can we recall an instance in which our military has knowingly briefed our own war plans to our enemies,” the senators wrote. “These disclosures not only risk the success of our mission, but could also cost the lives of U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces. Given the serious impact of these disclosures, we want to know who at U.S. Central Command was responsible for this briefing, and whether they had prior approval from the White House to divulge this information. Those responsible have jeopardized our national security interests and must be held accountable.”
At the hearing, officials assured Carter that the matter is under internal inquiry.