US President Barack Obama has said the recapturing of the strategic Mosul dam in Northern Iraq by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by the US air-strikes, is a major step forward in the fight against the Sunni militant group.
“With our support, Iraqi and Kurdish forces took a major step forward by recapturing the largest dam in Iraq near the city of Mosul. The Mosul Dam fell under terrorist control earlier this month and is directly tied to our objective of protecting Americans in Iraq,” Obama told reporters.
“If that dam was breached, it could have proven catastrophic, with floods that would have threatened the lives of thousands of civilians and endangered our embassy compound in Baghdad,” he said, adding that Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination.
This operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together in taking the fight to ISIL. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America, the US President said.
He said the US is building an international coalition to address the humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq.
The US would work with the Iraqi government, as well as partners like the UK, Canada, France, Italy and Australia, to get food and water to people in need and to bring long-term relief to people who have been driven from their homes, Obama said.
The US, he said, will continue to pursue a long-term strategy to turn the tide against ISIL by supporting the new Iraqi government and working with key partners in the region and beyond.
“Over the last week, we saw historic progress as Iraqis named a new Prime Minister-Designate Haider al-Abadi, and Iraq’s outgoing Prime Minister Maliki agreed to step down,” he said, adding this peaceful transition of power will mark a major milestone in Iraq’s political development.
Meanwhile, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said that over the past 72 hours, at the request of the Iraqi government, the US military used fighters, bombers, attack, and unmanned aircraft to conduct 35 strikes that eliminated ISIL positions in and around the Mosul Dam complex.
“In all, we destroyed over 90 targets including a range of vehicles, equipment, and fighting positions. Iraqi forces have cleared the dam and are working to further expand their area of control,” he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was “extraordinarily” proud of the men and women serving on land and sea who conducted these operations.
“He knows they stand ready to continue such missions as needed. Secretary Hagel also commends the way in which Iraqi forces worked together in this operation. It reflects the growing determination of Iraqis to fight back against ISIL,” Kirby said.