The United States' renewed airstrikes in Iraq will likely be a "long term project," President Barack Obama told reporters on Saturday.
In remarks made following his weekly address before leaving for a two-week vacation on Martha's Vineyard, the President said, "I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks," adding, "This is going to be a long-term project."
The comments came one day after the Pentagon confirmed that the U.S. warplanes had dropped bombs on Iraq, targeting fighters affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) rebel group. According to reports, the U.S. military launched three rounds of airstrikes throughout the day on Friday.
During his weekly address, Obama reiterated his decision to conduct the attack in order to protect Iraqi civilians who had fled up a mountain away from the advancing rebel group. He also announced that, in addition to the airstrikes, U.S. troops conducted an additional drop of humanitarian aid to the roughly 40,000 civilians—Kurds mostly of the Yazidi faith—who remained stranded on Mount Sinjar near the country's Kurdistan border.
"When countless innocent people are facing a massacre, and when we have the ability to help prevent it—the United States can’t just look away," the President said. "That’s not who we are. We’re Americans. We act. We lead. And that’s what we’re going to do on that mountain."
He added that the strikes were conducted in order to make it clear to the IS fighters "that if they attempted to advance further, our military would respond."
"That’s what we’ve done. And, if necessary, that’s what we will continue to do. We have Americans serving across Iraq, including our embassy in Baghdad, and we’ll do whatever is needed to protect our people," Obama continued.
The strikes mark the first official U.S. military operation in Iraq since Obama pulled ground troops out in 2011. Observers were quick to condemn the attacks saying that foreign military involvement is precisely what fueled the current sectarian violence in the country and will only escalate the growing crisis.