It seems the Pentagon is goading Iraqi and Kurdish forces into a battle for Mosul, hoping to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq's second largest city. There are actually not many Islamic state soldiers in the city, no more than 2,000, and some analysts think they will slip away rather than fight to the death. But they might fight, in which case a city of a million people is about to become a battleground.
The Americans will supply air cover. According to the Times, the Obama administration is trying to decide whether to send in American forward air controllers to call in air strikes, along with American special forces troops to guard them. If they are sent int battle, I don't think most Americans would object.
On the contrary, many Americans are eager for US ground troops to take the field against ISIS. I was just reading about the political situation in South Carolina, and Republican politicians touring the state (either presidential candidates or Congressmen home in their districts) are being barraged with questions about ISIS and why we aren't doing more to oppose them. Yesterday I talked to my older sons about this, and they both think we should send troops; their view is that it is our fault ISIS came to power in the first place, so it is our responsibility to do something about them.
I tend to think that all talk of reconquering Iraq from the Islamic State is premature, since there still isn't an Iraqi government worthy of the name, and certainly nobody in Mosul wants to be ruled by the buffoons in Baghdad. I also think it is really weird that the Pentagon is talking so much about this upcoming offensive. Their spokesmen have been telling journalists both the proposed timing of the offensive (April) and the number of men to be involved. (20,000, half from the Baghdad government and half from the Kurds.) There must be some sort of political agenda involved, perhaps undermining ISIS in Mosul, or reassuring anti-ISIS elements, by talking publicly about how soon they will be gone. Unless the whole thing is a show, we should this spring see a real test of the various powers jockeying for control of northern Iraq.