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Hagel: Military Remains Ready to Assist Iraq, Protect Americans

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2014 – The U.S. military remains ready to assist Iraq and to protect Americans there, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said tonight.

In a statement, Hagel commended the U.S. Central Command service members involved in today’s humanitarian assistance mission in northern Iraq, providing food and water for thousands of Iraqi civilians whose lives have been threatened by armed groups associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

“The U.S. military will also remain ready to conduct targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq fighting to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect Iraqi civilians trapped there,” Hagel said. The military also is prepared to conduct airstrikes to protect American personnel against ISIL terrorist convoys should they approach the city of Irbil, he added.

An enduring solution to the persistent threat posed by ISIL will require further reconciliation among Iraqi communities and strengthened Iraqi security forces, the secretary said. “Department of Defense personnel in Iraq therefore continue to assess opportunities to help train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces, and will provide increased support once Iraq has formed a new government,” he added.

A White House statement released tonight said Vice President Joe Biden called Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani this afternoon to discuss the security situation in northern Iraq and the threat ISIL poses to innocent civilians, and also to offer his condolences for Kurdish losses suffered during ISIL’s advance.

“President Barzani updated the vice president on the conditions facing Yezidi refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar and the disposition of Kurdish forces protecting Erbil,” the statement said. “Vice President Biden relayed President Obama’s offer of humanitarian assistance for the Yezidis and reaffirmed his commitment to take whatever actions necessary to protect Americans in Erbil, including targeted airstrikes.”

Barzani thanked Biden for America’s support, the statement said.

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Chuck Hagel

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