M A I N   N E W S

Iraqi forces ready to reclaim ground as US continues strikes

US priorities
US will continue to provide military assistance and advice to the Iraqi government and Kurdish force
May take time to create safe passage for besieged members of Iraqi minority group
Not moving US embassy or consulate in Iraq any time soon, will not give timetable for duration of airstrikes
Will not have combat troops in Iraq
US consulting its allies on how to create a safe corridor for moving Yazidis

Arbil, August 9
Iraq’s federal and Kurdish forces on Saturday prepared their bid to reclaim the lost ground as US jets pounded jihadist positions and also dropped aid to the stranded civilians.

President Barack Obama’s decision to send warplanes back to Iraq, three years after pulling the last US troops out of the country, marked a potential turning point in the two-month-old conflict.

After the first day of US air raids on Islamic State (IS) fighters who had moved within striking distance of Kurdistan, a top official in the autonomous region said the time had come for a fightback.

“Following the US strikes, the peshmerga will first regroup, redeploy in areas they retreated from and then help the displaced return to their homes,” Fuad Hussein told reporters on Friday in the Kurdish capital Arbil.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who has boycotted cabinet meetings for weeks as relations soured with Baghdad, said that failing to arm the Kurdish peshmerga forces had been a costly mistake. He said the American air strikes had damaged jihadists’ war machines on the ground and allowed the federal and Kurdish authorities to unite behind the common cause of defeating the IS jihadists. “The Iraqi army and the peshmerga are fighting side-by-side in the same trenches now,” he said. Iraq's military chief of staff, Babaker Zebari, told AFP on Friday that US advisers, peshmerga and federal top brass were “selecting targets” together.

The first US bombings struck IS positions and at least one convoy of vehicles carrying militants west of Arbil. A White House spokesman said Friday the strikes would be “very limited in scope”, but Babaker Zebari said he thought US air support would extend to other areas. He said the intervention would allow retention of large tracts of land lost to the Sunni extremists since they launched their devastating offensive on June 9. — AFP





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