(CNSNews.com) - Another 446 U.S. troops have arrived in Iraq within the past week, all part of the troop increase announced by the Obama administration in July.
Their arrival suggests that the battle to retake Mosul will happen soon, and reporters pressed for a timeline at Thursday's Pentagon briefing.
The spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, told reporters there were 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq last week and now the number is 4,460. The maximum number authorized by President Obama is 4640, Dorrian said.
"I can tell you that there's a tremendous amount of work going on for training," Dorrian said. "There's a tremendous amount of work going on to set conditions, including the logistics detail that would be required, in order to go after Mosul. And then we continue to hammer the enemy with strikes, including both artillery and air strikes."
Dorrian said the battle to retake Mosul "is an Iraqi-driven process" that involves not only the liberation of the city but the ability to hold it once it is liberated. He said 6,500 Iraqi troops "are in the training pipeline right now," in preparation to liberate Mosul.
"Prime Minister Abadi has come out and said that he would like to get this done within the year, and we are going to be at the Iraqi security force's side and be there to try to help pursue that," Dorrian said.
"What we're talking about here is meeting the Iraqi timeline. So if you're going to get something done by the end of the year, this is a very tough battle. The Mosul liberation battle for Mosul is five to six times as large as Ramadi in both area and in the number of people that are there. So there are going to be a lot of planning considerations and a lot of troops that have to be trained in order to do that.
"We expect a very tough fight because the Daesh have been in that area for more than two years, so they've had a chance to build intricate defenses. So we're going to try to meet the Iraqi timeline."
Reporters pressed Dorrian on whether the battle will start "within the next month," in October, but Dorrian would not confirm that. "I think I'm going to have to leave it with you with, we're going to meet the Iraqi timeline," he said.
(Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a national security conference in Washington on Thursday that the battle to retake Mosul would happen in the next two or three months. He said that battle would be will "long and difficult.")
Dorrian said there are an estimated 3,000 to 4,500 Islamic State fighters in Mosul, some of them "hardcore," and some who "wish they weren't there."
Dorrian said he expects between eight and twelve Iraqi brigades to be involved in the liberation of Mosul, "and a like number of hold forces that would come in behind."
A brigade is anywhere from 1,500 to 3,500 soldiers.