Joint efforts blunt ISIL's advance

Updated: 2014-08-22 09:06


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WASHINGTON - US airstrikes and military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish security forces have stalled the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces around Erbil, Iraq, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday.

This assistance helped the Iraqis retake and hold the Mosul Dam, which, if breached, would have threatened the lives of thousands of Iraqis as well as American personnel and facilities, Hagel said during a news conference.

"The United States led an international effort to address the humanitarian crisis that unfolded at Mount Sinjar," the secretary said. "As there continues to be an acute humanitarian need elsewhere in Iraq, the US appreciates the partnership of the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy and Australia and the United Nations in helping provide relief. I expect more nations to step forward with more assistance in the weeks ahead."

While the airstrikes and other assistance created an opening for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to snatch back the initiative from ISIL forces, air attacks will not be enough to remove the terrorist organization from Iraq, Hagel said.

According to Hagel, the Defense Department is continuing to explore all options regarding ISIL, including continued assistance to moderate forces in Syria. And President Barack Obama's request to Congress for 5 billion dollars to establish an antiterrorism fund included 500 million dollars for moderate Syrian opposition forces who are also battling ISIL.

The murder of reporter James Foley by ISIL forces is just one example of the ruthless, barbaric ideology of the group, he noted.

"ISIL militants continue to massacre and enslave innocent people and persecute Iraq's Sunni, Shia and Kurdish and minority populations," added the defense secretary.

Acknowledging that the US doesn't have the luxury to write ISIL off just because they're operating in far-off countries, Hagel said the organization is absolutely an imminent threat to the safety of America and Europe.