Kurdish forces backed by American warplanes made significant advances against Islamic State fighters in Iraq's Mosul province on Friday, CNN reported, while US President Barack Obama declared that a new NATO coalition will be able to mount a sustained effort to push back the militants.
According to the report, Kurdish fighters, known as the Peshmerga, recaptured several villages that were seized by ISIS over the past summer, as well as a plain that overlooks Mosul, Iraq's second largest city that is currently under the control of the extreme Islamist group.
"It is a duty of everybody who loves democracy and freedom and human rights to struggle against the terrorists," CNN quoted Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, as saying.
In recent weeks, the US conducted 131 air strikes against Islamic State targets and has sent military advisers to help Iraq battle ISIS.
So far, US airstrikes in Iraq have been largely limited to helping Kurdish forces and protecting refugees. But Obama has set a goal of dismantling and destroying the Islamic State, and said Friday that the US will continue to hunt down the militants just as it did with al-Qaeda and with al-Shabab in Somalia.
Jordanian crisis management cell
Meanwhile, a senior Jordanian government official told the Al-Hayat newspaper on Saturday that the country would establish a crisis management cell that will attempt to deal with the possible threat ISIS could pose to Jordan.
The official said that the Council of Ministers, headed by King Abdullah, selected Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour to head the group, which will be composed of representatives from all political and security institutions in the country.
According to the minister, the cell is supposed to "operate in efforts to improve and reformulate strategies to combat terrorism. Plans will be laid out, offering methods of dealing with extremist elements and combating them in the political, security, social and ideological arenas."
He added that the "increasing influence of the jihadist factions in the region is the driving force behind the establishment of the cell. We will use all measures in our power to monitor the extremist factions and protect us from their extremist ideologies."
The paper reported that the idea for the establishment of the cell came after security reports surfaced showing that the number of Jordanian jihadists has grown from 1,200 to 7,000 in the past two years, including 2,500 who are fighting in Syria.
According to the paper, Jordanian police forces arrested 100 Jordanians who expressed support for the Islamic State group. Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani told the newspaper that "there are ongoing contacts between Jordan and other countries in an attempt to tackle the regional challenges, particularly those posed by the terrorist organizations."
NATO allies take on ISIS threat
With the Islamic State militants spreading across eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, President Barack Obama noted on Friday that the moderate Syrian rebels fighting both the group and the government of Bashar Assad are "outgunned and outmanned." In addition to the action pledged by fellow NATO leaders, he pressed Arab allies to reject the "nihilism" projected by the group.
The new NATO coalition will be able to mount a sustained effort to push back the militants, Obama said. The US secretaries of State and Defense, meeting with their counterparts at the international gathering, insisted the Western nations build a plan by the time the UN General Assembly meets this month.
"I did not get any resistance or pushback to the basic notion that we have a critical role to play in rolling back this savage organization that is causing so much chaos in the region and is harming so many people and poses a long-term threat to the safety and security of NATO members," Obama said at the summit conclusion.
"So there's great conviction that we have to act, as part of the international community, to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and that was extremely encouraging."
Laying out a strategy for Iraq, Obama hinted at a broader military campaign, likening it to the way US forces pushed back al-Qaeda along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, taking out the group's leadership, shrinking its territory and pounding at its militant followers. To do that, the US used persistent airstrikes, usually by CIA drones.
Associated Press contributed to this report.