Reuters International

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The coalition fighting Islamic State will have to begin the fight for Mosul soon to meet Iraq's aim of freeing the city by the end of the year, a U.S. military official said on Thursday, but he declined to say if the offensive would begin in a month.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, who took over last month as commander of U.S. operations against Islamic State, predicted in an interview that the battle for Mosul would begin before early October.

"Ultimately, if the desire is to try to get it done around the end of the year, we're going to have to start soon," Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, told a Pentagon briefing. But he declined to confirm an October timeline.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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