President Obama declared Thursday that U.S. forces have broken the siege by Islamist militants against ethnic minorities seeking refuge on a mountain in northern Iraq, and said it won’t be necessary to conduct a rescue operation.
“The situation on the mountain has greatly improved,” Mr. Obama said. “We broke the [militants’] siege of Mount Sinjar … and we helped save many innocent lives.”
Earlier, administration officials had expressed concern that the U.S. military might be required to evacuate tens of thousands of minority Yazidis from Mount Sinjar, where they fled from an onslaught by militants of the Islamic State. But a team of U.S. special operations troops investigated conditions on Mount Sinjar on Wednesday and determined that the Yazidis are in better condition than believed and may not require a U.S.-led evacuation, Mr. Obama said.
“They found that food and water have been reaching those in need,” the president said, adding that thousands of Yazidis have been evacuating the mountain at night with the help of Kurdish fighters.
As a result, Mr. Obama said he does not expect the need for a rescue mission, and said the humanitarian effort to drop food and water for the Yazidis by air will be discontinued soon.
The president said the U.S. will continue to conduct air strikes against Islamic State targets.