- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pentagon aircraft have air dropped “critical meals and water” on a mountaintop where thousands of religious minorities have taken shelter in northwest Iraq.

A senior defense official said Thursday night that the humanitarian aid was delivered at the direction of President Obama.

“The mission was conducted by a number of U.S. military aircraft under the direction of U.S. Central Command,” the official said. “The aircraft that dropped the humanitarian supplies have now safely exited the immediate airspace over the drop area.”

About 40,000 religious minorities scaled the mountaintop while fleeing a violent extremist group known as the Islamic State. The group has been pilfering government weapons, persecuting Christians and slaughtering people as they move across the country.

The religious minorities under siege on Mount Sinjar are not the only critical issue for Pentagon officials. Those officials are also warily monitoring the Islamic State as the group moves increasingly closer to where a team of about 40 U.S. military personnel are stationed at a joint operations center in Erbil.

The team has been working to support Iraqi security forces and armed Kurdish fighters as they battle back the Islamic State.

A Pentagon official said Thursday that the Pentagon is prepared to protect its troops via armed aircraft. Those aircraft have accelerated their flying patterns over Iraq over the past few months.

All contingency plans for protecting — and possibly evacuating — the team are classified, according to the official.

“I can’t give you a time frame … nor would I even infer that we’re entertaining that right now,” the official said. “But whether it’s Tripoli, or whether it’s Baghdad, or whether it’s Erbil, anytime we have U.S. personnel over there, we always make contingency plans for evacuation.”

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