President Barack Obama said the United States will continue “limited” air strikes against Islamic State militants which have stopped their advance on the city of Erbil and helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces recapture a key dam in Mosul.
“We continue to see important progress” in the effort to turn back the militants, Obama said today at the White House. He said the United States was working to pull together an international coalition to support humanitarian relief operations in northern Iraq.
Obama again said the solution in Iraq depends on formation of a “credible Iraqi government.”
“They’ve got to get this done because the wolf’s at the door,” he said.
Obama spoke at the White House after meeting this morning with Vice President Joe Biden and members of the White House National Security Council for an update on Iraq. Obama flew back to Washington early this morning for two days at the White House in the middle of a two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.
Earlier today, the U.S. military conducted 15 more air strikes, targeting Islamic State militants near the Mosul Dam, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida. The attacks involved fighter, bomber and drone aircraft, bring the total number of air strikes in Iraq to 68 since Obama authorized them on Aug. 8, according to the statement.
Kurdish and Iraqi forces regained control of the dam, Iraq’s largest, from Islamic State Sunni-Muslim insurgents today. Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, have forced militants from the dam and now need to clear a 2 kilometer stretch of mines and bombs, Kurdish spokesman Halogard Hikmat said in a phone interview.
Obama said a breach of the dam would be “catastrophic.”
Islamic State fighters had taken the dam using U.S.-made weapons seized from fleeing Iraqi troops. Obama authorized air strikes following the dam seizure. The militants retain control of oil infrastructure in Iraq and eastern Syria, funding their self-proclaimed caliphate, or state based on the group’s hard- line interpretation of Islamic law, with the revenue.
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