A top White House official said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama could consider sending U.S. ground troops to help in the rescue of thousands of minority Iraqis who have been trapped on a mountain by Islamic extremists.
The New York Times reported that Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said that the use of American ground troops could be one of the options presented to Obama to aid Iraqi forces in rescuing thousands of Yazidis, a minority religious community in Iraq. The Yazidis have been stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq for more than a week after fleeing a nearby town and being surrounded by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which considers the Yazidis to be “devil worshippers.”
Rhodes distinguished between using U.S. troops to fight ISIS, which has wreaked havoc in recent weeks and carved out a self-described caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and a humanitarian mission to help the Yazidis.
“What (Obama’s) ruled out is reintroducing U.S. forces into combat on the ground in Iraq,” Rhodes said, asserting that rescuing the Yazidis was “different than reintroducing U.S. forces in a combat role to take the fight to” ISIS. But he did acknowledge that American troops could be in danger as part of the mission.
Obama already authorized airstrikes and humanitarian air drops to aid the Yazidis and the Kurdish forces helping to defend them. But as the Times reported earlier this week, U.S. officials have said that airstrikes would likely not be enough to ensure safe passage for the refugees off the mountain.
Rhodes said that Obama should be presented with military recommendations in the next few days.