WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama commented Thursday on the status of humanitarian and military actions in Iraq, stating that aid drops to Mount Sinjar will cease while targeted airstrikes against Islamic State militants continue.
The president reported "the situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts."
More than a week ago, Islamic State militants attacked the northern town of Sinjar in Ninewa Province, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee and seek shelter on the nearby mountaintop. With militants encircling the base of the mountain and the trapped residents running low on food and water supplies, the security and humanitarian situation was dire.
In response, Obama authorized targeted airstrikes to stop the advance of IS militants and to provide air drops of humanitarian relief to the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar.
"Over the last week, the U.S. military conducted humanitarian air drops every night -- delivering more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of fresh water. We were joined in that effort by the United Kingdom, and other allies pledged support. Our military was able to successfully strike ISIL targets around the mountain, which improved conditions for civilians to evacuate the mountain safely."
On Wednesday, a team of U.S. military and civilians conducted an assessment of the mountaintop and determined that the aid had reached those in need and that evacuation efforts were ongoing, facilitated by Kurdish forces and fellow Yazidis.
"Because of these efforts, we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it's unlikely that we're going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain."
Obama asserted that despite the success of breaking the militants' siege on Mount Sinjar, IS militants remain a threat.
"We will continue air strikes to protect our people and facilities in Iraq," said the president, adding "We have increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL on the front lines."
Humanitarian relief will also continue. In collaboration with international partners such as Britain, the U.S. will "provide humanitarian assistance to those who are suffering in northern Iraq wherever we have capabilities and we can carry out effective missions like the one we carried out on Mount Sinjar without committing combat troops on the ground."