By Jesse Byrnes - 08/18/14 09:05 AM EDT
Kurdish fighters and Iraqi security forces say they have retaken Mosul Dam, a crucial piece of infrastructure that Islamic extremists might have used to cause chaos in the country.
U.S. airstrikes supported the fighters as they retook the dam, which some observers had feared could be demolished to flood Baghdad and other areas of Iraq.
Some fighting remains in a contested part of the complex, al-Moussawi said, but he added that Iraqi and Kurdish forces had “hoisted the Iraqi flag over” the dam.
Kurdish leader Hoshyar Zebari, the departing Iraqi government's foreign minister, confirmed to The New York Times on Monday that Iraqi and Kurdish forces held the dam, though independent reports from within the site have not been available.
President Obama sent a letter to Congress on Sunday notifying them that airstrikes over the weekend were intended to help Iraqi forces recapture the dam. Under the War Powers Act, Obama previously had said the strikes were intended to help protect U.S. officials in the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, and to help Yazidi civilians, a religious minority threatened by fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“This mission is consistent with President Obama's directive that the U.S. military protect U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, since the failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, threaten U.S. personnel and facilities — including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad — and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
The U.S. conducted about two dozen airstrikes over the weekend to help Iraqi forces recapture the dam, which Islamic extremists took Aug. 7.
President Obama planned to meet with Vice President Biden and others Monday morning for an update on operations in Iraq, the White House said Sunday night.