Baqufa (Iraq) (AFP) – Kurdish fighters, backed by Iraqi forces and a new wave of U.S. air strikes, pressed their offensive against jihadist rebels Monday as President Barack Obama urged a joint counterterrorism effort.
Obama hailed the Kurds’ recapture of a major dam outside Mosul but warned Baghdad that “the wolf is at the door” and said it must move quickly to build an inclusive government.
Securing the dam was the biggest prize yet clawed back from the so-called “Islamic State” since it launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in June, sweeping aside Iraqi security forces.
“Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination,” Obama said, warning that the dam would have devastated cities downstream had it been breached.
“So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL.
“If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America,” he promised, in his clearest signal yet that the 10-day-old US air campaign against IS is far from over.
Obama said that Iraq’s new premier Haidar al-Abadi should rush to build an inclusive government to undercut support for extremists and underpin international action against the Islamic State.
“We 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,” he said.
U.S. Central Command, meanwhile, confirmed that US jets and drones had carried out 15 air strikes in support of the Kurdish-led offensive to retake the dam and push on into IS territory.
The jihadists, who have declared a “caliphate” in a region straddling the Iraq-Syria border, also came under attack in their Syrian stronghold of Raqa by Syria’s air force for a second straight day.
In Iraq, “the planes are striking and the peshmerga are advancing,” a Kurdish fighter told AFP near the shore of the lake formed by the vast Mosul dam.
– Dam ‘entirely liberated’ –