Hours after U.S. fighter jets targeted Islamist terrorists in Iraq, the White House stressed Friday that President Obama by no means will allow the U.S. to fall back into all-out war.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president is fully “determined” to not send American ground troops into Iraq, and that the ongoing mission — centered on degrading the capabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and delivering humanitarian supplies to trapped civilians — is narrowly defined and limited in scope.
“I think the president was determined to use military action to protect American personnel who are in harm’s way. He was determined to use American military assets to address an urgent humanitarian situation,” Mr. Earnest told reporters Friday afternoon. “The president is just as determined to make sure the United States is not dragged back into a prolonged military conflict in Iraq.”
U.S. forces carried out bombing missions Friday against the forces of ISIL, an al Qaeda offshoot group that has taken control of key areas in Iraq and has threatened to slaughter Christians if they do not convert to Islam.
The organization also has trapped more than 40,000 Yazidis — a Kurdish ethnic-religious sect — in the Sinjar Mountain area of northern Iraq without access to food or water. ISIL has threatened to kill the Yazidis if they try to descend the mountain.
As part of the humanitarian side of the mission, American jets have dropped 5,300 gallons of drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals, Pentagon officials said.
While the White House says further strikes against ISIL are possible to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel or to help end the Sinjar Mountain siege, those strikes will not involve ground forces, Mr. Earnest said repeatedly.