Iraq - ISIL/ISIS and the U.S. Humanitarian Aid Mission

The humanitarian mission that began Thursday night was conducted over Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. It included  air drops by two C-130 and one C-17 cargo aircraft escorted by two F/A-18 Super Hornets, from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier group in the northern Persian Gulf. said.

The operation was led by U.S. Central Command and so far involved the dropping of pallets of food, water and other supplies over the Sinjar mountain where approximately 40,000 Iraqis from the Yazidi minority are stranded and trapped by forces of the radical Islamic State - aka ISIL/ISIS. U.S. aircraft spent about 15 minutes flying at a low altitude over the drop zone, exposed to militants who have surface-to-air weapons. In total the air drop last night included about 8,000 meals ready to eat (MRE) and 5,300 gallons of drinking water. Additional air drops will continue “as needed,” according to DoD officials.  However, it’s going to take more than that amount to assist the 40,000.

Additionally, no air strikes occurred Thursday, even though strikes have been authorized against ISIL/ISIS militant ground units threatening the Kurdish city of Irbil, where U.S. State Department officials operate a consulate and diplomatic mission.  There are also 40 U.S. troops on the ground there manning a joint operations center at the location to coordinate operations.

Protecting the city of Irbil and the U.S. citizens there is the most “urgent priority,” but Obama also authorized air strikes on ISIS forces surrounding the Yazidis to help break the siege that is putting those Iraqis at risk. Administration officials signaled that air strikes and humanitarian drops will continue until the siege is broken.

Also, note the Iraqi air force attempted some air drops earlier this week with limited success because aerial delivery operations are both fairly difficult and sophisticated.

There are between 800-1,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad. About 300 are special operations troops whose primary mission is to gather intelligence, and about 400 are providing security for U.S. diplomats at the embassy in the Green Zone and the Baghdad airport.  There are additional, U.S. private/contract security elements, which are made up of former and retired U.S. military members.

The worst point, as usual, as is with this Administration is that yesterday the White House emphasized the limited nature of the mission, saying “We are not launching a sustained U.S. campaign against [the Islamic State] here.”

The other comment s to be aware of are, as noted; “When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action,” Obama said last night from the White House. “To stop the advance on Irbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against [Islamic State] terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.”

However, Obama repeated his vow not to put combat troops on the ground in Iraq, saying; “I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” the president said. “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.”

In authorizing the humanitarian mission, Obama said he was moved by the “chilling reports [of militants] rounding up families, conducting mass executions and enslaving Yazidi women.”  “When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I think the United States cannot turn a blind eye,” Obama said.

The most compelling and damaging point he stressed was; “…there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.”

That is absolutely absurd and represents a policy of weakness - a direct interpretation of a policy of retrenchment - and to essentially ignore the problem at the strategic level. The fact that the President said that and the White House actually allowed him to publically say those words,  is insane The strategic message it sends to the world, to the Jihadists, and to the people suffering at the hands of radical Islam, is devastating. It's another pronouncement of America’s weakness that only further emboldens our adversaries everywhere.


Jim Waurishuk

Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

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