Sens. McCain, Graham ‘applaud’ Obama for airstrikes to retake dam

Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Monday cheered President Obama’s decision to expand airstrikes against Islamist militants to help Iraqi forces regain control of the country’s biggest dam.

“We applaud President Obama's decision to step up U.S. air strikes in support of Kurdish and Arab Iraqi forces who are fighting to retake the Mosul Dam,” the pair said in a joint statement.

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Kurdish and Iraqi security forces on Monday announced they had taken back the dam from militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) roughly a week after the extremist group seized it.

The president on Sunday sent a letter to Congress informing lawmakers that the scope of U.S. airstrikes would be expanded to help Iraqi forces recapture the dam amid fears ISIS would destroy it to flood Baghdad and other areas.

U.S. Central Command on Monday announced that it had conducted a total of 68 airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 8, when the president authorized attacks on ISIS. Of those, 35 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the dam.

McCain and Graham described the operation’s success as “encouraging” and said it “confirms why we have been urging the president to mount an aggressive air campaign against ISIS, together with increased military and other assistance to our partners who are resisting ISIS on the ground.”

They called for a broader strategy to “degrade” the al Qaeda offshoot.

“Without a sustained effort to retake Mosul — a center of ISIS activity in Iraq — and to degrade their home base in Syria, we will lose momentum,” they warned.

McCain and Graham also stressed concerns that the militant group poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland.

“We should delay no further in taking the necessary actions to counter it,” they wrote.