ALQOSH, Iraq — Seizing on the momentum of U.S. airstrikes in recent days, Kurdish forces moved to retake the strategic Mosul Dam on Sunday night, in their most significant challenge to the Sunni militants' advance in northern Iraq.
The U.S. assaults hit 10 armed vehicles, seven Humvees, two armored personnel carriers and one checkpoint belonging to fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the U.S. Central Command said Sunday.
In the past two days, U.S. military forces have conducted 30 airstrikes across Iraq, officials said, with many of them focused around the dam, which militants captured after routing the Kurdish forces nearly two weeks ago. A statement from the National Security Council in Washington said the bombings were ordered by President Barack Obama to help the Iraqi forces "retake and establish control over the Mosul Dam."
Obama, the statement added, also officially informed Congress that he had authorized the airstrikes consistent with the War Powers Resolution.
As of late Sunday, Kurdish government officials said fighting around the dam complex, Iraq's largest, was continuing, despite early reports that the site had been retaken.
"We do not control the entire dam yet," Fuad Hussein, a spokesman for Massoud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish president, said in a televised statement.
By hammering the militants with warplanes and drones, the Americans have severely curtailed the freedom of movement enjoyed by ISIS fighters.
It remains to be seen how the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, may fare if the air support is halted. Having lost significant ground during the ISIS fighters' advance this month, Kurdish forces have shown that they may not be able to go it alone.
Kurdish officials acknowledge that the airstrikes have been vital to recent success in halting the militants' onslaught. For their part, peshmerga officials have complained bitterly about inferior arms compared with those used by ISIS militants, who have claimed powerful U.S. munitions abandoned on the battlefield by the Iraqi military.
According to Kurdish officials, ISIS fighters appear to be falling back on several fronts, as peshmerga forces approach both the dam and the city of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province. In their wake, they have left mines to slow the progress of Kurdish and Iraqi government forces.