The White House is considering using U.S. troops to evacuate Iraqi refugees, a senior official said Wednesday.
Thousands of Yazidi refugees fled to the mountains after the Islamic State descended on their community last week. Dozens have already died from dehydration and exhaustion.
The U.S. and U.K. have been dropping supplies of food and water on the mountain since last week, while American drones and jet fighters have bombed IS forces nearby.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes has admitted that the administration is considering a full-on rescue mission using American ground troops. The decision will be made in the coming days, in concert with military advisers already in the region. “We don’t believe it’s sustainable to have permanent airdrops” providing food and water, he said. (RELATED: Iraq’s Yazidis Plead For Weapons And Aid)
He was careful to distinguish between humanitarian and combat deployments. “What [President Barack Obama] has ruled out is reintroducing U.S. forces into combat on the ground in Iraq,” noting that sending in a rescue mission is “different than reintroducing U.S. forces in a combat role.”
This is a significant change in position for the White House, who just last week downplayed the possibility of a rescue mission. “The America people cannot solve this problem for the Iraqi people,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. (RELATED: Rep. Frank Wolf Shames Obama For Ignoring Iraqi Genocide)
The Pentagon sent 130 advisers to the region on Tuesday, including Marines and Special Ops forces. They are expected to make their recommendations to the president sometime this week.