Obama on Iraq: ‘This is going to be a long-term project’

McClatchy Washington BureauAugust 9, 2014 

Mideast Iraq

A fighter with the Islamic State group stands guard in front of the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Christian village of Bartella, northern Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014. (AP Photo)

UNCREDITED — AP

President Barack Obama said Saturday that the United States has been successful in destroying arms and equipment in Iraq through a series of targeted airstrikes that began Friday.

“We have to make sure ISIL (Islamic militants) not engaging in actions that could cripple a country permanently, he said.

But Obama said he did not know how long the military mission he ordered Thursday would last, saying that depends on the Iraqi government efforts.

“I'm not going to give a particular timetable,” he said. “I don't think we're going to solve this problem in weeks. It's going to take some months...This is going to be a long-term project.”

“We're going to push hard for Iraqis to get their government together,” he said.

Obama ordered on Thursday targeted airstrikes and food and water drops Thursday to help one of Iraq’s oldest minorities, stranded without food or water on a mountaintop where temperatures can reach 120 degrees, and with militant jihadists below, reportedly bent on giving them a choice of religious conversion or death.

“We feel confident we can prevent (Islamic militants) from going up the mountain and slaughtering people who are there,” Obama said.

U.S. military forces are “"positioned to strike...terrorists around the mountain” to help Iraqi forces. The next step, he said, "is how do we give safe passage?"

Obama made his comments on the South Lawn of the White House Saturday just before leaving for vacation with his family.

In response to a question, Obama does not anticipate asking Congress for any more money. “Right now, I think we are okay,” he said.

Former President George W. Bush signed the agreement in 2008 that set the deadline for the withdrawal, but Republicans have long blamed Obama for not allowing some troops to stay.

Obama pushed back on the criticism some have made that he should have kept troops, saying the Iraqi government would not allow it. He said the Iraqis did not pass the laws needed to provide immunity for U.S. troops.

“The majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there and they could not pass the kind of laws that would have allowed U.S. troops there,” he said. “That entire analysis is bogus and wrong.”

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