WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2014 - While the threat of mass violence on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq has passed, the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant remains, and the United States continues its efforts to assist the Iraqi people caught up in violence, the Pentagon press secretary said today.
Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told Pentagon reporters the situation in Iraq remains dangerous, and he described the objectives of the U.S. military mission in the country set forth by President Barack Obama.
"The president has been clear about our limited military objectives in Iraq," he said. "They are, one, to protect American citizens and facilities, two, to provide advice and assistance to Iraqi forces as they battle ISIL; and, three, to join with international partners to address the humanitarian crisis."
The U.S. military remains ready to continue airstrikes to protect U.S. personnel and facilities and around Irbil and to protect the Yazidi people, Kirby said. The admiral emphasized that while U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian aid have had an impact on the situation in northern Iraq, the U.S. cannot provide a military solution to the nation's crisis.
"The only lasting solution is for the Iraqis to come together and form an inclusive government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqi citizens and unifies the country in its fight against ISIL."
The admiral discussed the findings of the team of U.S. service members dispatched to Irbil, who are working alongside U.S. Agency for International Development personnel, to assess the situation on Mount Sinjar.
"The team assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar than previously feared," Kirby said. "That's largely because of our successful humanitarian airdrops and U.S. airstrikes on ISIL targets. These are the kinds of missions, as you know, that the military trains for all the time, and we do it better than anybody else."
These efforts, Kirby said, enabled Kurdish Peshmerga forces to assist thousands of Yazidis in evacuating from the mountain each night over the last several days.
"Those who remain on Mount Sinjar are in better condition than we previously thought they might be," the press secretary said. "They continue to have access to the food and water that we have airdropped. And as you may know, we did yet another airdrop last night."
Kirby said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel lauded the skill and professionalism of the U.S. military, and he noted that Hagel was "very proud" the department has been able to bring about this kind of change around Mount Sinjar.
"While this assessment has led us to conclude that an evacuation mission is far less likely, we're not taking our eye off the ball with respect to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, Kirby said. "We continue to assess the needs of the Yazidi people, as well as others who have been displaced in northern Iraq."
The admiral said additional humanitarian airdrops will be conducted if necessary, and he expressed Hagel's appreciation for international partners and their willingness to assist.
The secretary has made it very clear that he is extraordinarily grateful for the offers made by Great Britain, France, Australia and others to provide assistance to the Iraqi people, Kirby said.
"We are going to continue to need the help of our international partners," he added. "This is going to have to continue to be a focus of the international community, not just the United States."
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