Washington, DC – US President Barack Obama late Thursday night (August 7) addressed journalists announcing his authorization of “targeted airstrikes” if needed to protect US personnel in Iraq, as well as airdrops of food and water to religious minorities in Iraq who are under siege from Islamic militants and trapped on a mountaintop. “Today, America is coming to help,” Obama said.
A senior Pentagon official on condition of anonymity said about the humanitarian assistance operation near Sinjar, Iraq tonight, “The US military conducted a successful airdrop of food and water for thousands of Iraqi citizens threatened by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) near Sinjar, Iraq. This mission was conducted from multiple airbases within the US Central Command area of responsibility and included one C-17 and two C-130 aircraft that together dropped a total of 72 bundles of supplies. They were escorted by two F/A-18s also from an airbase within Central Command; the supply mission did not require any US ground forces.”
The official further said, “The C-17 dropped 40 “Container Delivery System” bundles of fresh drinking water and was complemented by a C-130 loaded with an additional 16 bundles totaling 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water. In addition, one C-130 aircraft dropped 16 bundles totaling 8,000 meals ready to eat.”
Expanding on the logistical details, the officials said, “The aircraft were over the drop area for less than fifteen minutes flying at a low altitude. As part of the United States commitment to allies and partners in the region, the Department of Defense maintains a robust stock of food items and water for rapid distribution if needed for a natural disaster or other crisis.”
On the expected next efforts the officials noted, “The United States military will continue to work with the Department of State as well as international partners including the Government of Iraq, the United Nations, and non-government organizations to assess the need for additional humanitarian operations in Iraq going forward.”
Earlier the presidential announcement was provoked by a humanitarian crisis involving the Yazidis, a small religious minority, who have fled their homes towards Kurdish areas but got trapped on a mountaintop surrounded by Islamist militants and are facing dehydration and starvation. The United States “cannot turn a blind eye,” Obama added.
On the subject, two Republican senators – John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – like always – issued a joint statement criticizing Obama moves as inadequate, “The President needs to devise a comprehensive strategy to degrade” the militant army, adding, “This should include the provision of military and other assistance to our Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian partners who are fighting ISIS.”