U.S. warplanes continued airstrikes against Islamic militants around the Mosul dam following the recapture of the key facility by Kurdish and Iraqi forces, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.
One airstrike destroyed a checkpoint used by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, CentCom said. A second airstrike against an unspecified target was unsuccessful, CentCom officials said in a statement.
The additional airstrikes were in support of Kurdish and Iraqi forces that were expanding their control of the area following the recapture of the dam on Monday, the Pentagon said.
The recapture followed three consecutive days of bombing that hit 90 targets around the dam, the Pentagon said. "We believe they were critical" in backing the advance of the Kurdish and Iraqi forces on the dam, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday.
If more airstrikes are needed to protect the dam and consolidate the gains, "we'll conduct them," Kirby said.
The recapture of the dam struck a major blow to the air of invincibility projected by ISIL since its fighters swept into Iraq from Syria in June to take the city of Mosul and large swaths of western and northern Iraq against little resistance from the Iraqi Army, Kirby said.
"Their morale is suffering," Kirby said of ISIL. The Mosul dam recapture showed that "they're not 10 feet tall," Kirby said.
ISIL remained defiant and issued a video under its newlyadopted name, the "Islamic State," which had the caption: "We will drown all of you in blood," Reuters reported.
ISIL fighers also put up resistance to an advance by Iraqi government forces on the central town of Tikrit, hometown of the late dictator Saddam Hussein. There were conflicting reports on whether the advance had been thrown back. "Tikrit remains contested, but [the Iraqi forces] are fighting for it," Kirby said.
Kirby denied that the heavy airstrikes around the Mosul demand amounted to "mission creep" beyond President Obama's stated goals of preventing a humanitarian disaster and protecting U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.
Kirby said "mission creep" meant "the growth or expansion of goals and objectives." He said that the airstrikes around the dam "helped prevent a huge humanitarian problem" that would have occurred if the dam burst and released a wave of water that would have been felt as far south as Baghdad.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@monster.com.