On Thursday, President Obama announced that he has authorized "targeted airstrikes" in Iraq, if necessary, to protect U.S. personnel in the Kurdish city of Erbil. He also approved airstrikes to facilitate a humanitarian mission to assist 40,000 members of the Yazidi minority who are trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq, having been driven there by Islamic militants.
An official told USA Today that an airdrop earlier Thursday had served thousands of people, and that the plane had already left the region. The Yazidis fled the Sinjar area earlier this week as the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took control of the region; ISIS views the Yazidis as apostates, and the fear is that the Yazidis are in danger of being massacred. They have not been able to leave the mountain, and food and water supplies are dwindling.
"The United States cannot turn a blind eye," Obama said. "We can act. Today, America is coming to help." The president stressed that the move does not signify that there will be a ground war in Iraq involving U.S. troops.