U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, Aug. 19, 2014. The U.S. partnership with Iraqi and Peshmerga forces was critical to the success of the operation to retake the Mosul Dam from Sunni extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), John Kirby said on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Bao Dandan)
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. military will continue airstrikes against forces of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant ( ISIL) and humanitarian efforts for Iraqi civilians, Pentagon said on Tuesday.
"Nothing has changed about the missions that we're conducting inside Iraq. Airstrikes are authorized under two mission areas -- humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities," John Kirby, Press Secretary of U.S. Defense Department said during a press briefing.
The airstrikes in and around Mosul Dam fit into both of those categories, he said.
"We believed that, should the dam remain in control of ISIL -- whose intentions are obviously not perfectly clear and certainly not in the best interests of the people of Iraq -- if that dam was to blow or they were to open and flood the gates, that it could have an effect as far south as Baghdad," the official said.
He added that Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue to hold the dam, the country's largest which provides water, electricity and flood control for Mosul's 1.7 million residents.
The dam's location and precarious condition meant that its possession by ISIL forces posed a threat to U.S. personnel and facilities in Baghdad. If the dam were to fail or be sabotaged, the resulting damage would rise to the level of a humanitarian disaster, he said.
A 2009 paper by Mosul University geologists estimated that up to 54 percent of Mosul would be under a maximum of 83 feet (25.3 meters) of water if the dam was breached.