This article says that the march north will be with 2 divisions of Iraqis:
Under that plan, Gen. Austin said two Iraqi divisions are expected to lead the force that retakes Mosul this spring, forces that will go to U.S.-run training centers in the coming weeks to prepare for the offensive. Those forces will receive four to six weeks training by the U.S. to prepare for the fight in Mosul, according to military officials.
Remember, in addition to the training, we sent in advisors to assist three division headquarters and 9 brigade headquarters.
So the attack north from the Baghdad region will be with 2 divisions and 5 brigades, I think.
That leaves us with another division headquarters and 4 advised brigades for a thrust from the Kurdish region aimed at Mosul.
It is still unclear if we will be allowed to put forward observers with the advancing Iraqi and Kurdish units to make best use of our air power. Perhaps we'll use Canadians, other allies, CIA, and contractors so we won't officially have "boots on the ground." Ridiculous, I know.
And Iraqi forces we don't advise can follow to garrison and hold ground taken and support local anti-ISIL Sunni Arab militias.
We have to be careful with the pro-Iran Shia militias that are part of Iraq's ground forces. I'd try to burn them as shock troops and keep them away from garrison duties in Sunni Arab areas. We can't trust them or their master, Iran.
Interestingly enough, in a sign of confidence in the existing Iraqi army, we would rather use newly retrained Iraqi units for defense while we assist more experienced Iraqi units for the actual offensive:
Those forces won’t be directly involved in the attack on Mosul. Instead U.S. commanders are urging Iraqi leaders to use those newly trained units to take over defensive positions around Baghdad and elsewhere and send more battle-experienced units to Mosul.
There is no mention of a thrust into Anbar.
Since we have allies in Iraq like the Australians and British advising Iraqi units, too, I assume they will be part of an advance into Anbar where ISIL has been holding for more than a year, now.
And as I've long written about, we could sure use a Jordanian mechanized force (and special forces) advancing into Anbar from the west at the same time Iraqi forces advance into Anbar from the east.
While this article--which doesn't even bring up the option of Jordan using their conventional forces--says that Iraq doesn't trust Jordan with this job, that might be the best reason to use them to reassure Anbar Sunni Arabs that it is safe to rise up against ISIL.
Let's hope that ISIL patiently waits for the hammer to fall. But enemies are rarely that cooperative.
UPDATE: With talk of the Mosul operation centering around the summer, what does this statement mean?
John Allen, the US coordinator for the anti-IS coalition of Western and Arab countries, said Sunday that Iraqi troops would begin a major ground offensive against the jihadists "in the weeks ahead".
"When the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that," he told Jordan's official Petra news agency.
Does this mean an attack north perhaps to gain jumping off positions for the main Mosul operation later in the summer?
Or does it mean an attack into Anbar where Sunni Arab resistance to ISIL exists in order to rescue them? Sunni Arabs do seem to be in particular need of help to resist ISIL retribution.
And Iraqi garrisons still holding out in eastern Anbar could sure use help.
An attack into Anbar could also take advantage of Jordanian anger at ISIL over the burning to death of their captured pilot to pave the way for a US-backed Jordanian ground attack into western Anbar.
Such an attack would also help push ISIL away from positions close enough to Baghdad to stage suicide bombers into the capital region.
So if an Iraqi attack is coming in weeks, rather than months, I'll guess that an Anbar operation is the going to be the first operation.
UPDATE: On Tuesday, reports of "thousands" of Jordanian troops moving to the Iraq border to seal it against infiltration and as a show of force.
Yet the report says a "battalion" was sent. Which is hundreds of troops--not thousands.
Or, they are there to screen the movement of more substantial forces--perhaps thousands--that are moving up to launch what I've long wanted, a Jordanian mechanized drive into western Anbar in support of an Iraqi operation from the east.
UPDATE: I'm not sure what a "show of force" means to jihadis on a mission from God.
And I'm not sure if a small ground unit show of force for the benefit of their own people makes sense after a number of heavy air raids on ISIL in Syria.
Come to think of it, why would ISIL infiltrate Jordan from the Iraq-Jordan border rather than the Syria-Jordan border further west?
And since reports on television say that their is 100% zero chance of the Jordanians advancing into Iraq and that Allen mis-spoke, I naturally expect an offensive into Anbar from west and east.
But I'm suspicious that way.