(CNSNews.com) - Much to the surprise of many Americans, the Obama administration is revealing its plan to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, months before the anticipated battle happens.
An official from U.S. Central Command told reporters on Thursday that the fight will likely begin in April or May and will involve up to 25,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi troops.
"It's very mystifying why this administration would reveal potential plans to retake Mosul," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News's Megyn Kelly Thursday night.
"If a private in Iraq had revealed this kind of planning inadvertently by leaving a plan in the chow hall or the gym, he might have faced a court-martial, but it's now become a matter of policy this administration is going to announce war plans in advance."
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a Vietnam Veteran, said he agrees with Sen. Cotton: "It's absolutely bewildering. We are aiding and abetting the enemy," he told Fox News's Kelly.
McInerney said it's unlikely the Islamic terrorists will flee ahead of time, knowing what's coming: "They're going to stay, probably, and it's still going to expose our forces to a certain risk because they're (ISIS/ISIL) going to be doing a lot of defensive preparation -- IEDs, different force positions, knowing an attack is coming. All those kind of things that are going to make our troops more vulnerable."
Asked why U.S. Central Command was telegraphing the time frame and details of the operation to the enemy, the U.S. military official said it was important to highlight the Iraqi security forces' commitment to the anti-ISIS/ISIL mission.
The official said the U.S. will provide military support for the operation, including training, air support, intelligence and surveillance. He said no decision has been made yet on whether to send in U.S. ground troops to help call in airstrikes. That decision would be made by senior defense and military leaders and President Barack Obama.
The official said the goal is to retake Mosul, captured by Islamic militants last June, before the summer heat and the holiday month of Ramadan begin. He added that if the Iraqi troops are not ready to fight in April or May, "we have not closed the door" on delaying the attack.
Said Cotton: "You have to wonder, given the timing right after the summit on countering violent extremism, that this is the administration trying to get a P.R. win since this summit hasn't produced anything other concrete to justify the President's failures and counteracting the Islamic State."
Cotton said U.S. troops need strong and confident leadership, but Obama isn't providing it as he continues to underestimate America's enemies:
"Just a month ago he taunted Vladimir Putin in the State of the Union. Now Vladimir Putin controls more of Ukraine than he did a month ago. A year ago he called Islamic State the jayvee team. If we're not willing to call our enemy what it is and confront it on its own terms, then our enemy knows that it's on the offensive and that's why it's recruiting so many jihadists from around the world."
(The Associated Press contributed some of the information in this report.)