U.S. Deems Iraq Rescue Mission Unlikely As Thousands Escape Mt. Sinjar

Mt. Sinjar in 2006. Mt. Sinjar in 2006. Defense Department file photo

A U.S. military operation to evacuate stranded Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq is "far less likely" after an assessment team determined that thousands had already escaped the mountain, the Pentagon said Wednesday night.

The group of about 20 personnel, who were accompanied by members of USAID, found that there were "far fewer Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days," said Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Defense Department spokesman, in a statement Wednesday.

Kirby noted that the assessment team "did not engage in combat operations" and was returned safely to Irbil by air after its mission.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel echoed that statement in comments to reporters at Andrews Air Force Base, and Pentagon officials told The New York Times that a combination of U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish forces had effectively broken the siege of Mt. Sinjar laid by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"The situation is much more manageable," one official told The Times. Thousands of Yazidis remained on the mountain as opposed to the tens of thousands who were initially stranded with dwindling food and water, and some of those remaining indicated to Americans they did not plan on leaving.

The assessment occurred quickly and came just hours after Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, told reporters in Martha's Vineyard that President Obama was considering a rescue mission on Sinjar that could have put U.S. forces on the ground.

Here is the full Pentagon statement from Kirby:

As part of the ongoing humanitarian efforts ordered by President Obama, today a team of U.S. military personnel, accompanied by USAID, conducted an assessment of the situation on Mt. Sinjar and the impact of U.S. military actions to date. The team, which consisted of less than twenty personnel, did not engage in combat operations and all personnel have returned safely to Irbil by military air. The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days. The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped. Based on this assessment the interagency has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely. Additionally, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities."

Separately on Wednesday, the United Nations announced that it had declared the humanitarian crisis in Iraq the highest level of emergency after four children were killed in fighting between Iraqi troops and Sunni militants.

The declaration triggers an additional amount of aid to the area, said Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special representative for Iraq.

Given the scale and complexity of the current humanitarian catastrophe, this measure will facilitate mobilization of additional resources in goods, funds and assets to ensure a more effective response to the humanitarian needs of populations affected by forced displacements."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.