US Airstrikes Help Secure Strategic Mosul Dam From ISIS Militants

ABC News' Terry Moran takes us to the frontlines in the fight against militants.
9:43 | 08/19/14

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Transcript for US Airstrikes Help Secure Strategic Mosul Dam From ISIS Militants
-- -- A strategic location recaptured. And a much needed victory for Iraqi Kurdish forces in the fight against ices the muzzled them retake an air support for the United States right now. Iraq hello I'm -- that's there in. The fight over the dam was the biggest coordinated effort between Iraqi Kurdish and US forces since the US troop -- in 2011. The US launching 68 strikes against its positions in Iraq more than half of them in and around that muscle -- -- President Obama calling the move a major step toward pushing back the extremist militants. Sister Maria was there on the front lines with the Kurdish forces after they took back control of the day. This has been done. This is -- report goes down we'll praise from with the punches. The -- isn't so how many ices fighters the salons that means -- the things you can because we know though for civilians. Movements we didn't show -- that -- just. And it's not easy because we don't know where. I think he would -- -- will -- Yet to -- -- know known to be -- people talk about Iraq breaking up. And here you are fighting. Over here for the most of them Kurdistan is over here. Why are you fighting here. We've come. He quit initiation tradition -- -- -- issues that remain. Shouldn't enable it ovation at a news that a book and politician elected -- that people -- again. -- shoeshine we couldn't put that look. Yet don't look at it be yet and damage in the New London this and I'm coast. The Kurdish commander general -- Fatah telling us his brave but lightly armed troops. Could not have advanced without American airpower. This was an ice this vehicle destroyed in an air strike the day before yesterday one of those air strikes which helped Kurdish forces. -- the ice -- fighters away from villages back your way from the roads. Away from the Mosul dam. The biggest fear about that -- Ice -- might weaponized preaching it to cause a catastrophic flood. Which the US estimates could sit at 65 foot high wall of water through Mosul in a few hours and fled Baghdad within days. Up to 500000. Could be killed -- that's. The -- that low ground out there general -- I surveyed the field. Smoke from air strikes rising in the distance. And on the ground and deadly threat left behind the general showed us these holes along the roadside. -- prices -- I ED what is this -- muddy took home a chemical explosives. The place is eerily quiet in the hazy distance we see the airstrikes continue -- long struggle still ahead. Terry Moran ABC news near the Mosul -- in the treatment. And Terry is now back in a city of -- -- and joining us now. Terry the the Kurdish -- murder forces seemed relieved from that talk about the significance. In this victory in this fight against diocese. Well it was a it was a very significant victory -- first strategically. That dam provides an enormous amount of power it is a prize crowning achievement of Iraqi infrastructure you know it's built very very badly. And most important to -- the president as he mentioned. And two American intelligence and military officials he has that it could be weaponized. Prices has already demonstrated that it could use. -- as a weapon and stand in Fallujah today they breached a dam in order to flood out some Iraqi troops. The desperate fear here is as we just saw is that. They would destroy or just try to breach this very large dam and cause a major humanitarian catastrophe so this was a very significant strategic victory. And also an incredible boost for the morale. Of the Kurdish soldiers that we were -- And I'm -- in the Iraqi soldiers as well we've been up here a couple of times and appear a month ago and for a week or so now. And it -- -- Harris spirits -- with their first real defeat a crisis since they charged down. Through Mosul towards Baghdad. Is it that they feel good about it there was a significant victory in a couple of ways could Iraqi and Kurdish forces carried this out without the help. Of those US airstrikes. No way that that the general the cheese -- beaten general cream Fatah said explicitly we could not have done this with American -- -- You know that the -- are famously. Brave fighters for more than a thousand years but they are desperately almost -- sick -- Under armed outgunned on the battlefield against I'd just -- is now has all that US taxpayer funded hardware military armored. Vehicles and artillery and everything else stolen from the Iraqi Army bases after -- army dissolved. The -- going to the fight with no body armor. With a rather hap hazard -- -- -- even uniforms. And with basically 1990s. Issue Soviet era -- cost and and small arms they're willing to go it doesn't get pounded. American air power made this Powell made this possible -- no question about. So at that point it's not even a matter of man power the size of each of those sites it's clearly the weaponry -- -- coming out. That's right and and the -- have been promised four years that is part of war in Iraq the new Iraq. The air. Fighting force which is traditionally based in their community and and has been. Part of the Kurdish culture for for generations would be fully armed just like the rest the Iraqi Army. But like so much else he -- former prime minister -- Al-Maliki. -- that promise. The trade it and -- the Iraqi Army by politicizing. -- firing competent officers replacing them with. Political cronies people who pay bribes politically connected clowns. And he did not harm the Kurtz. And as a result. The Iraqi Army as we -- would not fight they ran away when prices showed up. And the Kurdish army. Couldn't they just didn't have the guns that should be changing. Now that Al-Maliki has been. Ousted from power and a new Iraqi prime minister is coming in. The -- down now obviously retaken by Kurdish forces but the city of Mosul that's a different story altogether though. Absolutely that's it. Iraq's second largest city millions of people now overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. I was their first in 2003. It was there were hundreds of thousands of Christians who -- there -- -- now I remember walking down the street somebody catching my and making the sign of the cross to me. All those people are gone and it is a fact of life -- in Iraq that. Despite the -- -- that crisis has demonstrated in town after town and village after village. They do -- support among Sunni Muslims so in order to retake Mosul. You would not only have to defeat a well armed well funded well organized and and and commanded -- is fighting force. You'd also have to defeat -- population. Many of them many of us very substantial. Minority if not a majority. Are sympathetic to an end that is our reach well beyond the capacity records what is the -- -- -- deal where you are at or even closer to Baghdad. While there are -- you are one of the reasons that President Obama ordered this new air campaign was because -- -- itself. Came under attack the -- -- took forces took villages. How about thirty miles away from here and we're setting up to -- this place they have that kind of artillery once again courtesy of the US taxpayer and among the first air strikes. That that the US military carried out within destroy those artillery positions and help to -- retake those villages. One of the reasons her appeal is a Boomtown -- got -- when I look out the window this hotel room. I -- building like you -- she almost nowhere in the world the oil is up here in Kurdistan. Super giant oilfields and this is the capital. There are thousands of American workers up here and -- not -- -- rough -- and feel I'm talking about lawyers financiers. People supplying all kinds of business services and foreigners from around the world this is one of them buzzing booming oil towns in the developing world so the United States protected it. Farther south Baghdad is just getting its act together politically. And terms of its defensive perimeter it is doing better. But I have to tell you today that -- in the Iraqi Army declared that they were going to go trying to liberate the city of Tikrit Saddam Hussein's birthplace from -- And they stopped after just a couple of hours -- They added that Baghdad is still under some kind of threat. And now we wait to see how the US and international response will be to that ABC's Terry Moran in her beyond Terry thank you for that as always appreciate it. Of course you can keep up with the story real time by downloading the ABC news -- start the -- for exclusive updates on the go. Even -- and international hot -- I'm -- -- in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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