Obama: No timetable on Iraq airstrikes

 

President Obama declined Saturday to set a firm timetable for the latest U.S. military campaign in Iraq, but said airstrikes directed at Islamist militants near the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil have succeeded in destroying their arms and equipment. 

During remarks from the White House South Lawn, Obama said the strikes were beating back “barbaric terrorists” with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria who are holding thousands of refugees under siege on Mount Sinjar.

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“We feel confident that we can prevent ISIL from going up a mountain and slaughtering the people that are there,” he said, referring to the militant group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Obama made the remarks shortly before departing on Marine One for a two-week family vacation at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. 

Meanwhile, a pair of humanitarian airdrops had delivered thousands of meals and gallons of water to those stranded at the mountaintop.

Obama said he had secured commitments from British Prime Minister David Cameron French President Francois Hollande to join the humanitarian effort. 

But he said providing safe passage for the refugees would be a more daunting challenge and he stopped short of saying how long the strikes would last.

“Moving them is not simple in this kind of security environment,” he said.

Obama, however, repeated his assurance that the United States would not be dragged into another full-scale war in war-torn nation.

 “I’ve been very clear that we’re not going to have combat troops in Iraq again,” Obama said, adding that he had no immediate plans to ask Congress for additional funding for the operation.

Obama announced on Thursday that he had authorized the military to conduct the targeted airstrikes to aid Kurdish fighters and refugees under siege from ISIS.

The U.S. action comes amid advances by ISIS, which has taken over vast areas of Iraq and Syria. The administration has been pressing for Baghdad’s Shia-led government to work with other groups in Iraq and form a new government, and Obama reiterated his contention that the U.S. military could not provide a lasting resolution to the unrest.

At the same time, the U.S. military is obligated to protect its embassy, consulate and personnel in the region.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said. “This is going to be a long-term project.”

This story was updated at 11:36 a.m.