US President Barack Obama has declined to say how long the current American military operations in Iraq will likely continue. He also said the crisis could only be resolved after a unified Iraqi government is in place.
Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday, President Barack Obama said airstrikes, which US forces began carrying out on Friday, had "successfully destroyed arms and equipment " used by a group of militants who call themselves the "Islamic State" (IS). Obama said that the US had "stepped up" military assistance to Kurdish forces fighting the Sunni extremists near the northern Iraq city of Irbil.
The US president said an operation to provide humanitarian aid through airdrops to members of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority trapped on Sinjar mountain would continue. The Yazidis were left without food or water after taking refuge on the mountain to escape IS militants advancing into the city of Sinjar one week ago.
Obama also said he had secured the support in that humanitarian operation of British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.
"Both leaders expressed strong support for actions and agreed to join us in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqis suffering so much," Obama said after speaking by telephone with both Cameron and Hollande.
Obama said he was confident that, with the help of US airstrikes, IS fighters could be prevented from reaching the trapped Yazidis, but that it could take time to open up a corridor to allow for them to be safely evacuated.
He also declined to put a timeframe on how long it would take to complete the current US air campaign and humanitarian operation in Iraq, but he did describe it as a "long-term project."
No American solution
He also said the US air campaign alone could not solve the crisis and that Iraqi and Kurdish forces would have to do the difficult work on the ground to defeat IS fighters. Obama also ruled out sending US ground troops back into Iraq.
A key factor in resolving the crisis, Obama said, was for Iraqi leaders to put aside their differences and form a unified government.
"We continue to call on Iraqis to come together and form the inclusive government that Iraq needs right now," the president said.
pfd/mkg (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)