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by
Bridget Johnson

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August 13, 2014 - 5:12 pm

The Pentagon said its reconnaissance team that checked out the plight of Yazidi refugees under siege from ISIS fighters on Mount Sinjar is not as dire as officials there believed.

“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,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “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.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced yesterday that he had asked Obama for and received permission to send 130 extra “advisers” to Iraq, but stressed to Marines at Camp Pendleton that this didn’t mean “boots on the ground.”

“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,” Kirby continued.

“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,” he said. “Additionally, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities.”

The Pentagon did not release their estimate on the number of Yazidis still on Mount Sinjar.

On Tuesday, UN officials warned of an imminent atrocity with an estimate of 40,000 Yazidis trying to hide from ISIS on Mount Sinjar. “All possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours – civilians need to be protected on the ground and escorted out of situations of extreme peril,” said Rita Izsák, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

“We are witnessing a tragedy of huge proportions unfolding in which thousands of people are at immediate risk of death by violence or by hunger and thirst,” said Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons. “Humanitarian aid must be delivered quickly and no efforts should be spared to protect all groups forcefully displaced by this conflict.”

Additionally, the UN noted that ISIS is hunting down religious minorities in all areas under its control.

“We cannot stand by in the face of such atrocities,” said Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “International actors must do all in their power to support those on the ground with the capacity to protect lives.”

At a Tuesday press conference, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon called the plight of the Yazidis and others on Mount Sinjar “especially harrowing.”

“UN humanitarian personnel are in the area, doing what we can. Air drops of food and water are reaching some of the trapped people. But the situation on the mountain is dire. And even when people manage to find a way out, they remain exposed to searing heat and a perilous odyssey,” Ban said.

The White House said in a briefing earlier today that it was still assessing what to do about the trapped Yazidis.

“The Iraqis and the Kurdish forces in particular have been engaged. They have a presence on the mountain and they will certainly be cooperating with us in this effort,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters in Massachusetts.

“We have offers of support from a number of allies like France, Australia, Canada,” Rhodes said. “We will be in discussions with them about what they can do, both as it relates to helping the Yazidi population that has been trapped on the mountain but also more broadly helping bring relief to the displaced persons in Northern Iraq, which includes not just Yazidis but an enormous number of Iraqi Christians and others who have been driven from their homes by ISIL.”

“…The people who are on the ground fighting ISIL are the Kurdish forces and the Iraqi security forces. We are taking action from the air on the objectives of protecting our people and providing humanitarian space for the Yazidis, in particular on the mountain. If there’s additional things that we can do as part of an effort to move them off the mountain, [Obama will] certainly review those — those options.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today stressed “the United States is not the only country on Earth with an air force.”

“While I support President Obama’s decision to use airstrikes to protect the lives of thousands of innocent people of the Yazidi minority, the U.S. should not have to act alone militarily in this crisis,” Sanders said. “ISIS is a danger to the entire region and to the world. The international community must work with the U.S.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
Top Rated Comments   
I think somebody's lying. I wonder who it could be?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just heard that the Syrian Kurds broke through and evacuated the Yazidis from the mountain top. That means that Hagel can go back doing whatever he does, and Obama can play another round of golf.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh I know! They will all be wearing moccasins made by the Indian Princess from Massawhatsis using her great knowledge of Indian crafts.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (22)
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According to Obama and the Democrats, if we just leave the muslims alone, and like them, they will like us back. Problem solved. Now that's "S M A R T" Diplomacy...............Hahaha
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am more confused than usual. There are reports online now that the whole rescue thing was a phony. Who knows? I am getting back to the point where I don't believe anything the government says.


Yazidis Weren’t Stranded, Pentagon Looks for Other Missions
Posted By Jason Ditz On August 13, 2014 @ 7:44 pm In News | 3 Comments

The 40,000 Yazidis stranded on the mountain. That was the pretext for US military intervention in Iraq, as set out by President Obama last Thursday. The air war was commenced, and officials were talking up sending ground forces for “rescue” operations as recently as this afternoon.

But a funny thing happened when the US “advisers” got to Mount Sinjar. There weren’t 40,000 starving Yazidis stranded there. In fact, the indications are that there never were, and the Pentagon quickly dropped the “rescue” plan.

What happened? It turns out there were Yazidis already living on the top of the mountain, and while there were some refugees who fled up there, the humanitarian crisis was never what it was made out to be, and an influx of Kurdish PKK fighters from Syria quickly broke the overblown siege.

The Pentagon is trying to manage the narrative by simply saying the rescue mission “appears unnecessary,” but the fact that it was used to start a US war remains, and the State Department is doubling down, trying to spin the lack of a crisis as vindication of the war.

“President said we’re going to break the siege of this mountain, and we broke that siege,” bragged Brett McGurk on Twitter, neglecting to mention that the siege was largely mythical in the first place. The Pentagon wasn’t nearly so daring as to take credit for solving a crisis that didn’t exist.

Instead, the Pentagon is combing the countryside of northwestern Iraq, where their former casus belli was before it so rudely evaporated, and looking for other crises that they might use as a justification for continuing and escalating the war.

Officials seem to be totally ignoring the obvious question: where the false story of a massive Yazidi crisis came from in the first place. In that regard, there are no easy answers, though the obvious beneficiaries of the new US war are the Kurdish Peshmerga, which are suddenly getting flooded with Western arms to fight ISIS, and eventually, to fuel their secession.

The administration just seems grateful that they got an excuse to start a war they’ve been chomping at the bit for, and even if the excuse didn’t exactly pan out, they’ll quickly find another.



11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
The White House said in a briefing earlier today that it was still assessing what to do about the trapped Yazidis.
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Keep dithering you stupid putz! Dither long enough and the problem takes care of itself. What a heartless POS this president is! Cold and calculating (whats in it for me) and heartless. Its the same character traits that Hitler and Stalin shared.

11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great thinking Bernie, how did we get here? Oh yea cut and run.
Get out and let it fall like Saigon after the spent Blood and Treasure. Some day we will elect somebody that actually thinks about history, nawww.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
In other words, Dear Liar decided he didn't want his vacation disturbed anymore and so deemed there was no problem.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
always an excellent idea to alert the ISIS that there are less than 20 people on ground. what is wrong with these reporters ?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh. I guess I missed the report of the similar team we sent to central America to assess the plight of those 'children' we decided were in such need of rescue. Must have been offline that day.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
If anybody is going to be ethnic cleansed from the region, why not ISIS?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
See? Obama saved them! Sa-a-a-ved them! Take that, deniers!

Next episode: Soledad OBrien reports!
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
“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...

Would that be the supplies that we dropped from 15,000' that smashed on impact?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
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