US: Evacuation Mission of Refugees on Iraqi Mountain Now ‘Less Likely’
The U.S. Defense Department says a military assessment team has determined a humanitarian crisis involving thousands of Yazidis fleeing Sunni extremists in northern Iraq is less grave than previously feared. U.S. officials credit airdrops and airstrikes for making a costly and risky evacuation mission less likely.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said a team of less than 20 U.S. military personnel, accompanied by officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), conducted an assessment of the situation on Mount Sinjar early Wednesday. Kirby said the team did not engage in combat operations and all personnel returned safety to Erbil.
Returning from Asia Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the team determined international airdrops, U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State (IS/ISIL) targets and efforts by the Kurdish peshmerga fighters allowed thousands of Yazidis trapped on the mountain to evacuate.