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* Clinton, Trump spar over success of Mosul offensive in Iraq *

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Donald Trump said the joint U.S.-Iraqi-Kurdish offensive against the Islamic State in Mosul has been "a total disaster," a comment Hillary Clinton slammed for being too defeatist during a rally in the battleground state of New Hampshire.

Trump has on multiple occasions, including at two of the debates, expressed his displeasure with the U.S. military for disclosing its plan to aid an offensive aimed at retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul. Trump said declaring military plans ahead of time means losing the element of surprise and allows Islamic State leaders time to prepare and evacuate.

"Whatever happened to the element of surprise? We've been reading about it for three months. These people have all left," Trump said at last week's debate.

Military leaders sometimes make their plans public in order to allow civilians in the areas to flee or take cover in order to reduce the humanitarian toll a major offensive like the one in northern Iraq.

Several hundred U.S. troops are serving as support for a force of more than 100,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers who have joined together in a bid to retake large swaths of the Iraqi desert along the Syrian border from Islamic State fighters. The IS stronghold in Iraq, the northern city Mosul, is the major target. So far, nearly 80 smaller towns and villages in the area have been liberated and according to media reports, Islamic State fighters are fleeing in advance of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces back over the border into Syria.

In all, Iraqi security officials said they have retaken about 500 square miles of territory from the Islamic State so far.

On Twitter Sunday, Trump renewed his skepticism of the Mosul offensive, saying it "is turning out to be a total disaster."

Clinton responded at a rally in New Hampshire, criticizing Trump for saying he knows more about military strategy than the military itself.

"Imagine, this is a guy who says he knows more about ISIS than the generals. I don't think so," Clinton said, using another term for the Islamic State. "He's basically declaring defeat before the battle has even started. He's proving to the world what it means to have an unqualified commander-in-chief. It's not only wrong, it's dangerous and it needs to be repudiated."


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