U.S. forces have accomplished their mission to rescue tens of thousands of Iraq’s Yazidi people trapped on a desert mountain by a jihadi army, President Barack Obama declared Thursday.
But reports from Iraq says thousands of old and young Yazidi people are still trapped on the mountain.
They’re are facing death from exposure or from jihadis working for the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, or ISIL.
“We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar, we helped vulnerable people reach safety, and we helped save many innocent lives,” Obama said in a brief statement at his vacation spot in Martha’s Vinyard.
“We do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people on the mountain, and it is unlikely that we are going to need to continue humanitarian airdrops on the mountain,” he said, shortly before departing for another golf game.
“The majority of military personnel who conducted the assessment will be leaving Iraq in a couple of days, and I just wanted to say that as commander in chief I could not be prouder of the men and women of our military who carried out this humanitarian operation.”
U.S. aircraft dropped food and water to the trapped Yazidis. Local media reports say U.S. troops on the mountain direct air strikes against advancing ISIL jihadis.
But Iraqi politicians say many people are dying on the mountain.
“Kurdish officials and Yazidi refugees said Thursday that thousands of desperate Yazidis remain trapped,” said a Washington Post report.
“Those who are still stranded on the barren, rocky slopes of Mount Sinjar are mostly the elderly, sick and very young, who were too weak to continue the grueling trek to safety in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region and were left behind by their relatives, the officials and Yazidis said,” according to the Post’s report, which was published shortly after the president began his golf game.
The governor of Kurdistan’s Dahuk province, “said he was told on Wednesday to prepare to receive 15,000 Yazidis who were to be airlifted from the mountain by the U.S. military,” the Post report.
“Although it is impossible to confirm whether there are that many Yazidis in need of rescue, [Gov.] Farhad Atruchi said he believes that a large number remain trapped and are unable to leave because they are too weak to make the journey,” the Post reported.
“As commander in chief I could not be prouder of the men and women of our military who carried out this humanitarian operation,” Obama said, as he finished his statement.
Obama, however, did admit that the rescue of some people on the mountain has not stopped the jihad army, which appeared and expanded after he pulled U.S. forces out of Iraq in 2011.
In the rest of the country, “he situation remains dire for Iraqis subject to ISIL’s terror,” Obama said.
The U.S. is providing military aid, and will “continue airstrikes to protect our people and facilities in Iraq,” he said.
Iraq is trying to form a unified government, and “we are modestly hopeful that the Iraq government situation is moving in the right direction,” he said.