Obama: The Situation in Iraq 'Has Greatly Improved'

Displaced Iraqi Yazidi children play under a bridge in central Dahuk Thursday. Displaced Iraqi Yazidi children play under a bridge in central Dahuk Thursday. Khalid Mohammed/AP

President Obama announced "progress" in the American military's targeted operations in Iraq in a press statement Thursday from Martha's Vineyard, Mass. That said, the United States will continue airstrikes "to protect our people and facilities in Iraq."

On Wednesday night, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that a humanitarian operation to send in U.S. ground troops to help escort thousands of Yazidi Iraqis off Mount Sinjar was "far less likely now" because of seemingly successful airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops. Defense Department officials told The New York Times that thousands of Yazidis have been able to escape ISIS's siege on the mountain, and that military advisers who were in the area for 24 hours have found that "the situation is much more manageable."

"The bottom line is," Obama said, "the situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts because [through] the skill and professionalism of our military and the generosity of our people, we broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar, and we helped save many innocent lives." Obama said that the success of these efforts means that his administration does not now expect to need an "additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it's unlikely we're going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain."

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told the press earlier that the U.S. would consider sending in ground troops—but not combat troops—if those military advisers deemed it necessary to rescue Yazidis. The Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that no combat troops will be involved in the ongoing operation in Iraq.

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