President Barack Obama has ordered about 130 new assessors to deploy to Iraq, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said yesterday at Camp Pendleton, California.
Speaking to Marines and sailors at the base, Hagel said the new troops are in Iraq to assess and advise. They join about 450 other American troops in the country.
“Very specifically, this is not a combat ‘boots-on-the- ground’ operation,” Hagel said. “We’re not going to have that kind of operation.”
The additional service members have arrived in Erbil, Iraq. They will “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,” a defense official said in a written statement following Hagel’s talk to the Marines and sailors.
The official said the troops are primarily Marines and special operations forces from within U.S. Central Command, and that they will be in Erbil temporarily. “They will work closely with representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to coordinate plans with international partners and nongovernment organizations committed to helping the Yezidi people,” the defense official said.
The secretary, who arrived at the Marine base from meetings in Australia, reminded the service members that the United States is working in northern Iraq and Baghdad at the request of the Iraqi government.
Hagel said five humanitarian airdrops of food and water to the Yezidis trapped on Mount Sinjar had taken place so far, and that U.S. officials are coordinating the response with partner nations. The British, French and Australians have committed to the humanitarian mission, he said.
“We appreciate that the wide focus of our forces and our objective is to build those partnerships and to work with other countries as we help them become stronger and better at the things they need to do to protect themselves, and that’s particularly important … in a completely interconnected world when the threats are really borderless,” Hagel said. “They extend beyond nations and beyond regions.”
Iraq is under threat from some of the most brutal, barbaric forces in the world today, Hagel said, and the ISIL threat must be confronted by an alliance working with the Iraqi government.
“It’s going to take a new Iraqi government, and we’re going to continue to assist that government,” Hagel said. “This is a government that has to be inclusive. It needs to be a unity government that shares power, which was the intended purpose of the constitution they wrote. That hasn't happened the last five years, and because of that, Iraq is in the kind of position it’s in today.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)