In a statement on the South Lawn of the White House Saturday before leaving for a two-week vacation on Martha's Vineyard, President Obama said the U.S. will continue to provide military support in Iraq, but said there is “not going to be an American military solution to this problem." Instead, he called for a political resolution to violence that has gripped the country in recent months.
The president also spoke about two U.S. airdrops of food and water to members of the minority Yazidi religious group who have been stranded on Mount Sinjar since fleeing Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL).
The U.S. conducted a number of rounds of airstrikes on ISIS forces Friday, firing on an artillery position, two mortar positions, and a stationary convoy near Erbil, according to Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby. They are expected to continue if conditions on the ground warrant them.
News of the initial strike early Friday morning came just hours after President Obama addressed the nation on his decision to authorize targeted strikes and a humanitarian mission in northern Iraq to help protect religious minorities and U.S. personnel already in the region from attack by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL/ISIS).
Congressional leaders were notified by the president on Thursday of possible military actions. However the administration did not seek congressional authority for the airstrikes. A formal letter was sent to Congress on Friday.
While supporting the airstrikes, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also criticized the president's overall policy, saying, "The president’s authorization of airstrikes is appropriate, but like many Americans, I am dismayed by the ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the grave threat ISIS poses to the region."
The president said in June that he would consider targeted airstrikes if the situation warranted it. He made the comments after announcing he was sending 300 U.S. military advisers to the war-torn nation. There are now 800 offering assistance in the country.
Last month, House Republicans pushed for passage of a resolution barring President Obama from sending forces to Iraq in a "sustained combat role" without lawmaker approval. It was approved 370-40 following debate on the House floor held July 25. The measure was referred to the Senate, but no action was taken.
Friday's airstrikes make President Obama the fourth president in a row to carry out such actions in Iraq.