The U.S. is sending an additional 130 American forces to northern Iraq to plan additional humanitarian assistance options for refugees besieged by Islamic State militants on Mount Sinjar, according to a Defense Department official. The forces, which include U.S. Marines and special operations forces, will not be engaged in a combat role, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. U.S. President Barack Obama has insisted that U.S. combat troops will not return to the country that they withdrew from in 2011. At the request of the Government of Iraq, the U.S. government continues to explore ways to support Iraqis affected by the ongoing fighting in Sinjar, the official said. Obama authorized targeted air strikes last Thursday to protect American personnel in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil and support forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Ezidi civilians have sought refuge from Islamic State militants. Armed groups linked to the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, captured Iraq's Sinjar and Rabia in the Nineveh province last week after fierce 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 Islamic State took control of large swathes of the country's predominantly Sunni provinces.
The U.S. military continued aid operations for thousands of Iraqi citizens stranded in northern Iraq, according to its Middle East command.
They sent their sixth aid drop, of food supplies and water, to Iraqis belonging to the Ezidi faith, who have been besieged atop Mount Sinjar by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
The armed groups linked to IS stepped-up their offensive in northern Iraq last week, forcing thousands of Ezidis to seek shelter on Mount Sinjar, near Iraq's second-largest city Mosul, which is under Islamic State control.