WASHINGTON, August 19, 2014 —
The partnership between U.S., Iraqi and Peshmerga forces was critical to the success of the operation to retake the Mosul Dam from Sunni terrorists, the Pentagon press secretary said today.
The operation was a team effort, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said. “I also would -- at the same time -- point to the courage, the bravery, the skill of both the Kurdish forces and Iraqi forces and their extensive cooperation with one another in conducting this operation,” he said.
There were no U.S. troops involved in the ground operation, Kirby noted, which was supported by U.S. airstrikes. They continued today with two additional airstrikes carried out near the dam, one destroying an ISIL checkpoint, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue to hold the dam, he said. Iraq’s largest; it provides water, electricity and flood control for Mosul’s 1.7 million residents.
The dam’s location and precarious condition meant that its possession by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces posed a threat to U.S. personnel and facilities in Baghdad. If the dam were to fail or be sabotaged, the resulting damage would rise to the level of a humanitarian disaster, defense officials have said.
Charges that U.S. involvement in the retaking of Mosul Dam represents mission creep are wrong, Kirby said.
“Mission creep refers to the growth or expansion of the goals and objectives of a military operation -- that the goals and objectives change, morph into something bigger than they were at the outset,” he explained.
“... Nothing has changed about the missions that we're conducting inside Iraq. ... Airstrikes are authorized under two mission areas -- humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities,” the admiral said.
The airstrikes in and around Mosul Dam fit into both of those categories, he said.
“We believed that, should the dam remain in control of ISIL -- whose intentions are obviously not perfectly clear and certainly not in the best interests of the people of Iraq -- if that dam was to blow or they were to open and flood the gates, that it could have an effect as far south as Baghdad.”
A 2009 paper by Mosul University geologists estimated that up to 54 percent of Mosul would be under a maximum of 83 feet of water if the dam was to fail.
“The missions are clear,” Kirby said. “The operations that we're conducting are inside the authorizations for those missions. And we're going to continue to be vigilant going forward. And if there is a need for more airstrikes in conjunction with either of those two mission areas, those two authorizations, we'll conduct them.”
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