The U.S. widened its air campaign against Sunni extremists in Iraq, sending bombers for the first time in support of a Kurdish ground offensive to retake the Mosul Dam and promising to keep up strikes until the strategic post is out of the hands of Islamic State fighters.
Kurdish forces who launched the ground operation on Sunday managed to push back the militants from some positions around the dam by the end of the day. The operation was the most highly coordinated among U.S., Kurdish and Iraqi forces, since American troops left Iraq in late 2011.
By Sunday afternoon, militants were retreating from positions around the dam and the nearby town of Tal Keif, according to the town’s mayor, Basim Bello, and U.S. officials. American officials briefed on the latest battlefield damage assessments said Kurdish forces are starting to gain the upper hand.
The Kurdish ground attacks followed nearly two dozen U.S. airstrikes over the weekend using jet fighters and armed drones to target insurgent positions near the Mosul Dam and Erbil, capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region, according to the U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East. Since Aug. 8, the U.S. has conducted roughly 50 airstrikes in Iraq.
The military assaults on Mosul Dam will continue until the Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces can retake the dam, a U.S. defense official said, adding that the airstrikes have so far been effective in reducing Islamic State forces positioned in and around the dam.
President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes this month over concerns about recent advances by Islamic State militants as well as worries over thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority who had been stranded on nearby Mount Sinjar for about two weeks.
In 2007, the then commanding general of US forces in Iraq, David Petraeus, and the then US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, warned Iraq’s PM Nouri Maliki that the structure was highly dangerous because it was built on unstable soil foundation.
“A catastrophic failure of Mosul dam would result in flooding along the Tigris river all the way to Baghdad,” they said in a letter.
“Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20 metres (65.5ft) deep at the city of Mosul,” it said.
The same concerns remain today.
“The Mosul dam is essentially a ticking time bomb,” Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi hydraulic engineer, told the Wall Street Journal on 11 August.
Another concern is that the IS militants, who have sought control of water resources before, could use the dam as an instrument of war in the current conflict.
The Fallujah dam, in the Nuamiyah area of the city, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, fell under IS control in February.
However, the group has so far failed in its attempts to capture the Haditha dam, Iraq’s second largest, from the army.
over 60 strikes now..obama appearing regularly to advise america of how successful they are..i see them blow up the odd ute or truck..what exact numbers are they fighting against?..a band of 30 or 40?