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US sends 130 more military advisers to Iraq

AFP | Iraqi Christians who fled violence in the town of Qaraqosh on the outskirts of Arbil.

The United States has sent 130 more military advisers to northern Iraq on a temporary mission to assess the scope of the humanitarian crisis facing thousands of displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Sinjar Mountain.


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the deployment on Tuesday in remarks to US Marines at Camp Pendleton, California.

“The president has authorised me to go ahead and send about 130 new assessment team members up to northern Iraq in the Arbil area to take a closer look and give more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help,” said Hagel.

“This is not a combat, boots-on-the-ground kind of operation,” Hagel said. “We’re not going back into Iraq in any of the same combat mission dimensions that we once were in in Iraq,” he added, referring to the eight-year war that cost more than 4,400 US lives and soured the American public on military involvement in Iraq.

A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide additional details on the sensitive mission, told AP that the extra troops are marines and special operations forces whose mission is to assess the situation in the Sinjar area and to develop additional humanitarian assistance options beyond current US efforts there. Another official said the mission for the 130 troops could last less than one week.

Hagel referred to the 130 personnel as “assessors”.

Targeted airstrikes

The additional troops arrived Tuesday in the city of Arbil, well east of Sinjar. They are to work with representatives of the State Department and the US Agency for International Development to coordinate plans with international partners and non-government organisations to help the trapped Yazidi civilians on Sinjar Mountain.

The move shows the White House is weighing the impact and implications of several days of targeted airstrikes on fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL), which now calls itself the Islamic State, and how that has affected US-backed Kurdish forces opposing the group in northern Iraq.

US President Barack Obama has said repeatedly he will not send ground forces back into Iraq.

One immediate dilemma is the fate of thousands of displaced Yazidis in the Sinjar area who have been provided with food and water delivered by US cargo planes in recent days. Washington also is considering how to increase its military assistance to the Kurds, whose militia is outgunned by the militants.

The 130 new troops will join 90 US military advisers already in Baghdad and another 160 in a pair of operations centres – one in Irbil and one in Baghdad – working with Iraqi security forces. They are in addition to about 455 US security forces and 100 military personnel working at the Office of Security Cooperation in the US Embassy in Baghdad.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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