The staff will be relocated to the U.S.’ consulate in Basra and the Iraq support unit based in Amman, the Jordanian capital. “While security concerns remain extremely high in Iraq, this limited move today is out of an abundance of caution rather than any one specific threat,” Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement released to the press late Sunday. Still, the majority of staff will remain in the Erbil consulate, and it will remain open “to engage daily with Iraqis and their elected leaders – supporting them as they strengthen Iraq’s constitutional processes and defend themselves from imminent threats.” The announcement follows three successive days of U.S. air strikes that have targeted Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, mortar positions, armored vehicles and personnel carriers. On Saturday, President Obama warned it was "going to take some time" to help stabilize Iraq in the face of the Islamic State insurgency. Armed groups linked to the Islamic State captured Iraq's Sinjar and Rabia in the Nineveh province last week after intense clashes, forcing thousands of Iraqis including Turkmen, Arabs and Ezidis to flee.
The violence in Iraq escalated in early June after a coalition of armed groups linked to the militant group took control of large swathes of the country's mostly Sunni provinces. The conflict between the army and militants entered a new stage in July when insurgents captured a number of key cities and towns in Iraq. The Iraqi army has staged military operations against IS-led militants. Over a million civilians have been displaced so far amid the ongoing clashes in the north and west of the country.