President Barack Obama signaled the likelihood of an enduring U.S. military involvement in Iraq, but said airstrikes and other aid would only help contain the threat from Sunni extremists until the country’s leaders form a new government to confront the crisis.
The latest offensive by the militant group Islamic State over the past week brought the fighters to within 25 miles of the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region, Erbil.The U.S. conducted three rounds of airstrikes on Friday aimed at halting further moves toward the city, where American military advisers and diplomats are stationed.
The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has captured large swaths of Iraqi territory since June. The insurgents tried to advance farther northward on Saturday, but then retreated.
The Islamic State is accused of attempting to perpetrate a genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. On Saturday, the U.S. launched four airstrikes designed to defend Yazidis who were coming under attack from the Islamic extremists. Since President Obama authorized U.S. intervention on Thursday night, U.S. forces have airdropped three deliveries of food and water to tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped on a northern mountainside by the rapid advance of the militants.