Obama: Iraq Strikes to 'Take Some Time'
U.S. President Barack Obama said two airstrikes have destroyed arms and equipment of Islamic State militants who have besieged northern Iraq and threatened the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
Speaking at the White House Saturday, Obama said the fight against the group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, will take "more than weeks."
Friday's targeted strikes fighter jets and drones were essential to prevent the militants' advance on Irbil, where American diplomats and military advisers, among others, are stationed.
Obama explained the intervention in Iraq was needed to aid Iraqi religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, who fled after the militants ordered convert or die. For days, thousands have been stranded on Sinjar mountain.
On Saturday, Obama said food and water air-dropped by the U.S. military to the thousands of Iraqi civilians stranded on a mountain after fleeing Islamic insurgents "will help them survive."
The "humanitarian effort continues to help the men, women and children," Obama said Saturday, adding it may take time to provide safe passage for those on the mountain.
On Friday, Obama had explained intervention in Iraq was needed because the U.S. "cannot just look away" when "innocent people are facing a massacre."
The president said the U.S. has stepped up military assistance to Kurdish forces in Iraq. He said he talked with the French and British leaders, and they agreed to provide more humanitarian assistances to Iraqi civilians.
Obama said there was “no particular timetable” for ending military action.
“We’re going to maintain vigilance and make sure our people are safe,” he said, referring to American diplomats and military advisers in the consulate and elsewhere. The effort could take months, he suggested.
But, the president said, “the most important timetable I’m focused on is the Iraqi government getting formed. We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem.”
The parliament was elected in April but still must choose its leadership. Support has been waning for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiai criticized for not involving representatives of other religious and ethnic groups.
Specifics of strikes
In one strike, the U.S. military dropped 250-kilogram laser-guided bombs on an artillery unit that was shelling Kurdish forces defending Irbil.
Obama had authorized U.S. military planes to carry out "targeted airstrikes" against the Islamic State extremists and deliver food to the stranded refugees on Thursday.
Islamic State extremists have brutally executed ethnic and religious minorities and others who do not agree with their particular brand of Islam.
The group, which has captured significant amounts of military hardware the U.S. had previously supplied Iraqi forces, now controls a large swathe of eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. It has declared the area a "caliphate," and is actively recruiting other fighters to join the group.
In Washington on Friday, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes met at the White House with members of the Yazidi community to discuss the situation in northern Iraq and said the United States will continue to provide humanitarian support.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday issued a notice restricting U.S. commercial flights in Iraqi airspace, due to the "potentially hazardous situation" created by the conflict between the Islamic militants and Iraqi security forces.
The International Organization for Migration says the number of internally displaced people in Iraq is now over 1 million.