By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2014 – President Barack Obama has announced an end to the siege of Iraq's Mount Sinjar where Iraqi Yezidis had fled to escape Sunni terrorists, and that U.S. airdrops to those who were trapped there will likely end. But he said airstrikes will continue to protect Americans in the country.
“Our military was able to successfully strike ISIL targets around the mountains, which improved conditions for civilians to evacuate the mountain safely,” the president said in televised remarks from Edgartown, Massachusetts where he is vacationing. “The situation on the mountain has greatly improved, and Americans should be very proud of our efforts.”
Obama said continued airdrops and evacuation operations are not expected, and military personnel who assessed the situation on the mountain likely will come home soon. However, he said the United States will continue to work with other nations to provide humanitarian assistance to other minority groups in northern Iraq when possible.
Obama said airdrops have delivered more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of fresh water to those on the mountain. The United Kingdom helped in the effort, and other allies pledged their support, he added.
As commander in chief, the president added, he could not be prouder of the military men and women who carried out the humanitarian operation almost flawlessly. “I'm very grateful to them,” he added. “And I know that those who were trapped on that mountain are extraordinarily grateful.”
But ISIL remains a threat to the people of Iraq, the president said, particularly for minorities.
“We obviously feel a great urge to provide some humanitarian relief to the situation, and I've been very encouraged by the interest of our international partners in helping on these kinds of efforts.”
Air strikes to protect American people and facilities in Iraq will continue, he said.
“We have increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL on the front lines,” Obama said. “Perhaps most importantly, we are urging Iraqis to come together to turn the tide against ISIL above all by seizing the enormous opportunity of forming a new inclusive government under the leadership of Prime Minister-designate [Haider al-Abadi],” he added.
The president said he spoke with Abadi a few days ago, and that Abadi said Iraq needs an inclusive government that speaks to all people of Iraq.
“He still has a challenging task in putting a government together, but we are modestly hopeful that the Iraqi government situation is moving in the right direction,” Obama said.