The US military strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq is aimed at stopping the advance of the terrorist outfit towards the Kurdish regional capital Irbil, a top White House official has said.
“What our strikes are doing are aiming to achieve a very specific objective around Irbil, which is to stop any advance of ISIL in a way that threatens Irbil. We believe we are having that impact,” Deputy US National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told the PBS’s ‘News Hour’ yesterday.
“We have been able to hit ISIL targets that have been shelling the Peshmerga, that have been trying to advance toward the city. And what we want to do is create a periphery where they cannot get into Irbil and threaten our people and facilities or the security of the city more broadly,” he said hours after the US military launched a series of air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq.
Islamic State militants claimed that the US airstrikes were not hurting them at all and they were going to keep going.
Yesterday, US fighter jets and drones repeatedly bombed targets in northern Iraq, which Pentagon described was ISIL’s artillery units and convoys advancing on Irbil.
After launching strikes in the morning, the US forces conducted two additional airstrikes.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm John Kirby, remotely piloted aircraft struck a terrorist mortar position.
When ISIL fighters returned to the site moments later, he added, the terrorists were attacked again and were killed.
Eight minutes later, four F/A-18 aircraft successfully struck a stationary ISIL convoy of seven vehicles and a mortar position near Irbil, Kirby said.
Reiterating that there would be no American boots on the ground to be engaged in combat in Iraq again, Rhodes said the Obama administration believed that it could achieve its objectives from the air.
“So, around Irbil, we can again create a periphery where we’re hitting any ISIL targets that move toward a city. That creates a protection zone for Irbil and our people there,” he said.
“On that mountain, we can do humanitarian aid drops, and we can also hit any ISIL targets if we see people threatening that mountain. That should create some space where we can come up with a solution to provide a safe passage and safe space for the Yazidi people,” he said.
Rhodes said the ISIL advances have come as a wakeup call to the Iraqi leaders.
“Iraq’s leaders had gotten complacent. They had fallen back into sectarian divides. But ISIL’s advances I think did provide a wakeup call and you have seen in the government formation process progress. A new Kurdish president nominated, a new Sunni speaker, now discussions around a prime minister,” he said.