Obama on Iraq airstrikes: U.S. will ‘maintain vigilance’ for as long as it takes

BY Carey Reed  August 9, 2014 at 3:00 PM EST
President Barack Obama speaks about the US airstrikes and relief supply drops in Iraq on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.)

President Barack Obama speaks about the U.S. airstrikes and relief supply drops in Iraq from the White House on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.)

Before leaving on a two-week vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, President Barack Obama gave an update on the U.S. airstrikes against the Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic State in Iraq and stressed that the U.S would maintain vigilance for as long as it takes.

“Wherever and whenever U.S. personnel and facilities are threatened, it’s my obligation, my responsibility as commander-in-chief to make sure they’re protected,” President Obama said. “We’re not moving our embassy any time soon, we’re not moving our consulate any time soon, and that means that given the challenging security environment, we’re going to maintain vigilance and make sure that our people are safe.”

The goal of the strikes, which began on Thursday, is two-fold: to protect Americans diplomats and personnel in the area, as well as address the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq, as militants threaten the lives and displace members of the Yazidi religious minority community.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled when the Islamic State group earlier this month captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, the Associated Press reported. Most recently, the group kidnapped hundreds of Yazidi women.

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The U.S. airdropped food and water to Yazidis in the area. President Obama said that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande both support these efforts.

Targeted U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State have been conducted outside the city of Irbil, the capital city of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. So far, the strikes have destroyed arms and equipment, which the terrorist group could have used against the city.

President Obama reiterated that U.S. troops would not be sent to Iraq, citing lessons learned from a costly and long invasion in Iraq in the past.

“So it would be a big mistake for us to thinking that we can, on the cheap, simply go in, tamp everything down again, restart without some fundamental shift in attitudes among the various Iraqi factions,” he said.

Instead, continued military assistance and advice will be provided by the U.S. to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, in addition to the strikes.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” President Obama said. “I think this is going to take some time.”