WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden said on Saturday that the Islamic militants rampaging now in northern Iraq can be defeated without U.S. boots on the ground.
The veep's comment came as the Obama administration has started a debate over a more forceful intervention in Syria, including possible airstrikes on targets of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whose militants have seized a vast swath of territory in northern Iraq since June.
"ISIL is far from invincible," Biden wrote in an article carried by The Washington Post. "And as we saw at the Mosul dam, when its fighting strength is eroded, it can be routed by local forces without U.S. boots on the ground."
Iraqi and Kurdish forces joined hands in retaking the dam, Iraq 's largest, on Monday under the air cover of American warplanes.
President Barack Obama authorized limited airstrikes on ISIL targets on Aug. 7 as the militants advanced on Erbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, and trapped and threatened displaced civilians. He ruled out sending back U.S. combat troops, though he sent in hundreds of military advisers.
Citing victory over the Mosul dam, Biden wrote "This was the first joint operation of its kind, and we believe it is a model to build upon."
"As Iraqis continue to make progress, we are prepared to further enhance our support for Iraq's fight against ISIL -- and will call on the international community to join Canada, Australia and our European allies in doing the same," he continued.
"This is a fight that Iraq, with help from America and the world, can and must win," he added. "We all have a stake in empowering moderates in Iraq to prevent a terrorist state from taking root in the heart of the Middle East."
ISIL announced the establishment of an "Islamic Caliphate" in areas under its control in Syria and Iraq in late June and changed its name to the Islamic State, threatening stability in the volatile region.
Biden again called for the formation of a unity government in Iraq, as Washington had joined in pressing Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki, whose policies over the years were blamed for alienating Iraq's Sunnis and Kurds and giving rise to the radical militants, to step down earlier this month to make way for Haider al-Abadi to form a new government.
"Unless Iraq can do this, no amount of outside intervention will matter -- nor will it continue indefinitely," Biden wrote. " That's why government formation is so critical."
He also called on Iraq's neighbors to "refrain from fueling sectarian divisions."
"The threat, of course, is not confined to Iraq," Biden wrote. "Addressing it will also require continued support for our partners in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian opposition and others to counter ISIL and address the flow of foreign fighters to and from the battlefield."
"We will continue to consult closely with Congress about our strategy in Iraq and the region when it comes to ISIL and the security of our people," he added. "This will be a long-term challenge."
Press reports said the Obama administration is debating about intensifying U.S. efforts in Syria to counter ISIL, including airstrikes by warplanes as in Iraq now.
Administration officials have hardened their rhetoric following the beheading of American journalist James Foley by ISIL, as shown in a video released earlier this week by the group.
One of Obama's aide called Foley's killing a "terrorist attack" on the United States.
"If you come after Americans, we're going to come after you, wherever you are," Benjamin Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser, told reporters on Friday.
"We're actively considering what's going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we're not going to be restricted by borders," he added.
DAMASCUS, Aug 23 (Xinhua) -- The growing threat of the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and the region may open the door for a U.S.-Syrian cooperation, which is deemed crucial by local analysts to put an end to the growing threat of the IS.
The recent development in the region has deepened the conviction that the United States and Syria may have a chance to cooperate in combating the IS, whose presence in Syria is no less threatening than in Iraq. Full story
KIRKUK, Iraq, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- At least 22 people were killed and 132 wounded in three bomb attacks in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Saturday, a police source said.
Three suicide car bombers targeting headquarters of Kurdish forces blew themselves in northern and southern Kirkuk, leaving some buildings collapsed, a local police told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Full story