(CNSNews.com) - The Iraqi city of Mosul is "key terrain" that "remains in ISIL hands," a Pentagon spokesman told reporters on Tuesday.
"And I think everybody's mindful that -- that eventually there's going to have to be a fight for Mosul. We know that," said Rear Adm. John Kirby.
"I want to be careful here that I don't, you know, divulge planning efforts before they are ripe to be -- to talked about, but obviously we're working closely with the Iraqi security forces on helping them better understand the challenges with respect to any kind of campaign in Mosul and making sure this is part of the train-advice-and-assist mission, to making sure that they are as battlefield competent as possible."
A reporter asked Kirby if the battle to re-take Mosul from ISIS/ISIL terrorists will require U.S. targeting assistance on the ground -- forward air controllers who call in air strikes.
"We haven't made that kind of an assessment to date," Kirby responded."[W]e're just not there yet," he added later.
Kirby indicated that the battle for Mosul will happen when Iraqi forces are ready to fight it.
He also talked about "the difficulty involved" in retaking a "big city" with "difficult terrain" and an "entrenched" enemy:
Another reporter asked Kirby if there is any truth to reports that Canadian ground troops are calling in air strikes for the Americans.
"I don't have any specific information about that lash-up," Kirby said. "But that aside, there's -- you know, your question almost kind of presumes that, you know, we're looking for a way around, you know, some, you know, prohibition. And that's just not the case.
"The truth is, and you know this, I mean, the -- the forward air controllers while useful, are not always completely necessary. And the large -- large bulk of the airstrikes that we've conducted in Iraq and in Syria have not -- have not needed them.
"Again, I'm not saying that forward air controllers aren't helpful and that there won't come a time when perhaps military leadership might want to recommend that. They reserve that right. Secretary Hagel has made it clear that if they get to that point where they feel like they should recommend it, they ought to. But we're just not there yet."
Kirby could not say how many airstrikes in Iraq have required forward air controllers, although he did say the number is "very, very small."
"Can you say whether Canadian forces have acted as forward air controllers as has been reported?" another reporter pressed Kirby:
"I won't speak for another nation's military and what their contributions are. What I -- my answer to Phil was, I can't answer that question. I don't know. I don't know what the Royal Canadian forces on the ground are.
"And you still say today that Americans have not acted as forward air controllers?" the reporter asked.
"Yes, I can say that," Kirby said.
President Obama repeatedly has told the American people that the U.S. will not put combat troops in Iraq again.