One hundred thirty United States marines and special operations units will travel to the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north of Iraq, according to Pentagon officials.
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said of the deployment of marines to the war zone, “This is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation.” The “assessment team members” were already in the Kurdish capital of Erbil and would give a “more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help,” he said. The new deployment of forces brings the total number of American ‘advisers’ in Iraq to 380.
A Pentagon official said the US would continue to support “Iraqis affected by the ongoing fighting in Sinjar (where over 20,000 Yazidis are under siege by the Islamic State)” and try to stop “potential acts of genocide” that were being carried out by the Islamic State terror group.
As of Tuesday, the US government has air-mailed roughly 100,000 meals and over 27,000 gallons of fresh water to stranded Yazidis in the Mount Sinjar area. Britain and France have also joined the effort to feed the starving Yazidis trapped on the mountain.
A State Department official said late Tuesday that the Obama administration is “looking to see what we can accelerate” in terms of aid to the post-Maliki Iraqi government.
Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily told The Guardian that he was in “constant talks” with the White House about potential military support to the new Iraqi government. “Drastic and immediate actions are required to counter the imminent threat from [Islamic State], [as] the fight is leading to more catastrophic humanitarian tragedies,” he said. “Given the unfolding humanitarian crisis, broader and more intensive airstrikes can mitigate against further atrocities.”