“He was trying to play up surprise, but he doesn’t understand the reasons at all why we’ve been forecasting this, which is to get as many civilians out as possible and to push for as many defections from ISIS as possible,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and former Army officer.
Watts explained the strategy of encouraging any ISIS supporters within Mosul to defect.
“[ISIS] just lost [the symbolic Syrian town] Dabiq, so if you take Dabiq first, then maybe you get a lot of defections and people running for the hills,” he said. “That’s why they kept saying ‘We’re starting now.’ When you have the Iraqi army and a lot of these units that aren’t the American army, you want to thin the herd as much as possible before you send them in.”
It was also no secret that the Iraqi army was moving in on Mosul — it’s ISIS’ last major stronghold in Iraq, and Iraqi forces have been retaking surrounding towns as they close in on Mosul.
“There is no surprise when you’re taking Mosul after two years,” Watts said. “[ISIS] can see the Iraqi army surrounding them on the periphery.”
Watts blamed bad advisers.
“Really this comes down to his advisers,” he said. “He’s got, in my opinion, horrible counterterrorism and national security advisers.”