Iraqi forces break siege of Turkmen town with help of US air strikes
The Iraqi army,. supported by Shiite militias, have broken the six week siege of the town of Amirli. US air strikes plowed the way clear for government forces to enter the town on Sunday.
More than 15,000 ethnic Turkmen had been surrounded by Islamic State forces since July.
The breakthrough came hours after the U.S. led an international air drop of relief supplies to the town on Saturday, a modest expansion of U.S. military operations in the region.
U.S. war planes also struck at Islamic State forces in conjunction with the relief mission, the Pentagon said.
If the Iraqi troops and militia succeed in keeping the Islamic State insurgents from returning to Amirli, the mission would offer yet another success story for U.S. airstrikes in averting humanitarian crises in Iraq, the first such armed intervention since U.S. troops left the country in late 2011.
The mission comes as the Obama administration considers whether to expand its attacks on Islamic State targets in Iraq and debates a further incursion into neighboring Syria, a stronghold of the Islamic State.
The Amirli mission marks a continuation of the Obama administration's intervention in northern Iraq to rescue hundreds of Iraqis who had been stranded on a mountain while fleeing the insurgency. The Yazidis, an ancient religious group with ties to Iraq's Kurdish ethnic minority, had spent about two weeks on the Sinjar Mountains before Kurdish and Iraqi fighters, supported by U.S. airstrikes, pushed back the insurgents and gave the Yazidis a chance to escape.
But Saturday night's U.S.-led airstrikes also reflected expanded international cooperation for humanitarian efforts in Iraq.
This is a local success, nothing more. Our air force is making Iraqi troops look almost competent. But there is no overall strategic plan to oust IS from Iraq, much less Syria. And "international cooperation" still means that the nations of the world want the US to do the heavy lifting.
It's nice for the people of Amirli that the siege has been lifted. Meanwhile, Islamic State continues its slow advance elsewhere in Iraq, while the government still can't get its act together. At this rate, the government may unite just in time to announce Iraq's dissolution.