WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- A transfer of 10,000 rifles and $17.9 million of other military equipment to Iraqi troops preparing an offensive against the Islamic State has been accelerated.
Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, confirmed Wednesday the deliveries were expedited so the Iraqi army is prepared to contest the IS-held cities of Tikrit and Mosul. Other equipment, including 250 armored vehicles, body armor and 232 Hellfire missiles, has already been dispatched to Iraq, he added.
Plans call for an advance on Mosul as early as April, or as soon as a 20,000 to 25,000-man force of Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers can be assembled and equipped.
New U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter noted potential for success is a larger priority than timing in the campaign. Speaking on his way to Afghanistan, earlier this week, he noted any operation to capture Mosul will be "Iraq-led and U.S.-supported."
Some doubt victory can be achieved. Police and troops abandoned their posts and ran when IS troops arrived in June, making the city symbolic of Iraqi incompetence. U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have been critical of revealing the planned campaign as giving "our own war plans to our enemy."