US President Barack Obama has authorised “targeted airstrikes” against Islamic militants to protect American military personnel and airdrops of meals and water to thousands of religious minorities trapped on a mountaintop in northwest Iraq.
In a late night televised address, Obama on Thursday said the US “cannot turn a blind eye” when it has the capability to prevent genocide of Iraqi minorities stranded on mountain.
Obama said he has authorised US military to conduct air strikes against Islamic State militants if they advance further toward the city of Erbil, the capital of Kurdish region of Iraq.
In a speech that lasted for nine minutes, Obama explained the reasons for his decision, but reiterated that there would be no American troops on the ground.
“Today America is coming to help,” he said in his remarks from the State Dining room of the White House, adding that when the lives of Americans are at risk and when thousands of innocent civilians at risk, the US will take action.
Thousands of families from the Yazidi minority community are reportedly trapped in the mountains without food and water after fleeing the rampaging fighters of the Islamic State, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.
Throngs of refugees, many of them Iraqi Christians, are also on the run after their largest city, Qaraqosh, was occupied by the militants from the al-Qaeda splinter group.
“We can act carefully and responsibly to avert potential act of genocide on that mountain,” Obama said.
At the same time he vowed that US would not be dragged into another war in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US military is ready to carry out airstrikes inside Iraq.
“The US military will also remain ready to conduct targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq fighting to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect Iraqi civilians trapped there,” Hagel said in a statement from New Delhi where he is travelling.
“In addition, we are prepared to conduct airstrikes to protect American personnel against ISIL terrorist convoys should they approach Erbil,” he said.
At the direction of Obama, US military conducted a successful airdrop of food and water for thousands of Iraqi citizens threatened by the Islamic State near Sinjar, Iraq.
The mission was conducted from multiple airbases within the US Central Command area of responsibility and included one C-17 and two C-130 aircraft that together dropped a total of 72 bundles of supplies.