U.S. President Barack Obama says Saturday airstrikes have destroyed Islamic State group’s' arms, equipment in Iraq. He said fighting against ISIL will take "more than weeks."
In the wake of two airstrikes Friday on Islamist militants in northern Iraq, Obama said Saturday the United States would continue its vigilance against threats to American personnel and facilities there and to provide humanitarian aid to refugees.
The U.S. targeted attacks on Islamic State militant group outside of Irbil were essential, the president said, speaking from the White House South Lawn Saturday before heading to a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Obama said the U.S. airstrikes have destroyed Islamic State group’s arms, equipment in Iraq and that it may take time to provide safe passage for besieged members of Iraqi minority group.
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.
On Friday, Obama had explained decided to intervene in Iraq because the U.S. "cannot just look away" when "innocent people are facing a massacre."
In his weekly address Saturday, Obama said the food and water the U.S. military air dropped to the thousands of Iraqi civilians stranded on a mountain after fleeing Islamic insurgents "will help them survive."
The Sinjar mountain refugees include Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities, who were ordered by Islamic State militants to convert or die.
On Friday, the U.S. military launched two rounds of airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in northwestern Iraq, using drones and fighter jets.
Obama said the action was meant to protect American diplomats and military advisors serving in the city of Irbil.
A senior administration official says the strikes came as Islamic State extremists began advancing and were beginning to threaten the periphery of the Kurdish city.
In one strike, the U.S. military dropped 250-kilogram laser-guided bombs on an artillery unit that was shelling Kurdish forces defending Irbil.
President 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.
On Friday, Obama sent a letter to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, describing the situation.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday Obama had not set any specific end date for the military operations.
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.
Speaking from New Delhi, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the United States would continue to support the Iraqi government as well as Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State militants.
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.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Friday that Britain would join the emergency aid drops, but would not take part in any military strikes.
The International Organization for Migration says the number of internally displaced people in Iraq is now over 1 million.
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