Donald Trump isn’t letting up on his criticism of the offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS. In fact, he doubled down on Saturday, questioning the reasons for the US-backed mission and criticizing US leaders involved in its planning.
The Republican presidential nominee knocked US officials as a “group of losers” for not launching a “surprise” attack and said he was convinced the offensive — which is led by the Iraqi military — was launched “for political reasons” to benefit his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. He suggested she would get “credit” for its success.
Trump’s repeated criticisms of the ongoing military operation in Mosul come despite forces on the ground making key gains.
“Whatever happened to the element of surprise, right?…What a group of losers we have. And now it’s a very tough battle, they’re dug in. It’s a very — much tougher than they thought,” Trump said at a campaign event in Tampa, Florida. “We need different thinking in this country, folks. They should have kept their mouths shut.”
Those remarks came after he questioned the core rationale behind the military offensive, which is central to defeating the terrorist group in Iraq.
“Who benefits by us getting Mosul?” Trump asked the previous night during a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “You know it’s going to benefit Iran. We’re not going to benefit. Because Iran is taking over Iraq.”
Although Iran has gained influence in Iraq since US forces largely pulled out of the country in 2011, retaking territory from ISIS is crucial to the US goal of destroying the terrorist group — which Trump has vowed to accomplish as president.
Trump has repeatedly argued that US and Iraqi military leaders should not have announced plans to attack Mosul, a proposal US military officials have strongly rebuked as unrealistic. US military officials and experts have said it is nearly impossible to move tens of thousands of troops into position without alerting the enemy. They have also stressed the importance of warning civilians of the coming battle.
Despite gains against ISIS, Trump continued to insist Saturday that the offensive has been a “disaster,” directly contradicting accounts from military leaders and observers on the ground.
And while Trump on Saturday said the Mosul offensive was designed to benefit Clinton politically, the GOP nominee has also previously argued it was launched to buttress President Barack Obama’s political legacy in the final months of his presidency.