WHITE HOUSE - President Obama said Saturday that airstrikes in Iraq will continue for as long as necessary to protect both U.S. personnel and religious minorities who are trapped on a mountain by militants in northern Iraq.
'I'm not going to give a particular timetable,' Obama said at the White House shortly before leaving for a summer vacation at Martha's Vineyard, Mass. 'We are going to maintain vigilance.'
Obama again called on Iraq to form a 'unified government' that is able to battle militants on its own, saying that 'all Iraqi communities are ultimately threatened by these barbarian terrorists.'
Overall, he said, improving Iraq's security situation will 'take some time' and is 'going to be a long-term project.'
The president said that he and his aides will continue pushing Iraq lawmakers to form a new government because they are the ones who must solve their nation's problems -- 'the United States can't do it for them.'
Responding to a reporter's question, Obama said the U.S. did not leave troops in Iraq after the end of combat operations because Iraq's government did not a sign an agreement to have them there.
Most of Iraq's citizens 'did not want U.S. troops there,' he said, adding that it's 'bogus' for critics to attack him for the lack of a post-combat agreement.
The president said he has no plans to ask Congress for additional funds to finance the new Iraq operations, but 'we'll have to evaluate what happens over time.'
The president also talked about Iraq during his weekly radio address, stressing the limited nature of renewed military action in Iraq and saying it is designed strictly to protect U.S. personnel and prevent a possible genocide of religious minorities.
'As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,' Obama told listeners.
The president said that 'combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there's no American military solution to the larger crisis there.'