Obama sends more military personnel to Iraq

A still image captured from the U.S. Central Command night vision video footage shows an Air Force personnel retrieving straps after the U.S. military airdrop of food and water.

A still image captured from the U.S. Central Command night vision video footage shows an Air Force personnel retrieving straps after the U.S. military airdrop of food and water.

The Obama administration has sent about 130 additional military personnel to Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday, as Washington seeks to help Iraq contain the threat posed by hardline militants from the Islamic State.

Hagel, speaking to troops in California, said the soldiers had arrived in the area around Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Arbil, earlier in the day on Tuesday.

A U.S. defense official, in a statement issued as Hagel was speaking, said the soldiers sent to northern Iraq would “assess the scope of the humanitarian mission and develop additional humanitarian assistance options beyond the current airdrop effort in support of displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Sinjar Mountain by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed his country will join humanitarian airdrops in Iraq and did not rule out the possibility of greater military involvement.

Abbott, speaking in London after security talks, said Canberra was in discussions with international partners on how to protect displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar by jihadist Islamic State militants.

“Australian aircraft will shortly be joining the humanitarian airlift and airdrop to the Mount Sinjar region and we are consulting with our partners including the United States, including the United Kingdom, about what further assistance Australia can give,” he said late Tuesday.

Last week, the United States launched an air campaign to break the siege of Mount Sinjar, bring humanitarian relief to the Yazidis and support Kurdish troops protecting their capital Arbil.

Washington has ruled out sending U.S. combat troops to the country, as has Britain, which has increased its support efforts and missions to supply humanitarian aid to refugees.

Asked whether Australia’s efforts could include further military action by defense forces, Abbott said: “We certainly don’t rule that out.

“We are talking to our partners — and our partners, in this instance, are certainly much wider than simply the United States and United Kingdom — but we are talking to our security partners about what we can usefully do to help,” he said.

But he stressed that any involvement would be a humanitarian mission to protect those at risk from the “murderous hordes” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS.

“There is a world of difference between getting involved to prevent genocide and the kind of involvement that we’ve seen in recent years by western countries in the Middle East… and no one should conflate the two,” he said.

A still image captured from U.S. Navy cockpit video shows an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Black Lions of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 in a mid-air refueling.

A still image captured from U.S. Navy cockpit video shows an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Black Lions of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 in a mid-air refueling.

 
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