The United States carried out new air strikes in Iraq on Saturday night to accompany what the Pentagon said was a "humanitarian assistance operation" to help Shia Turkmen under a nearly two-month siege by Islamic militants.
According to a statement released by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. Kirby, "These military operations were conducted under authorization from the Commander-in-Chief to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to prevent an ISIL attack on the civilians of Amirli. The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli."
According to earlier reporting by Ahmad Mohammed at Niqash.org:
Amerli, which is home to mostly Shiite Muslims of Turkmen ethnicity, has been under siege by forces from the extremist group known as the Islamic State, or IS, since mid-June.
Since the extremists took control of most of the area around the town, forcing other Shiite Muslim Turkmen into Amerli, it has been extremely difficult to get any goods or people in or out. The extremists have also disconnected water and power to the town.
In addition to the U.S. forces, British, Australian and French forces participated in the humanitarian aid drop.
Following President Obama's authorization on August 8 for airstrikes in Iraq as a response to humanitarian crisis, Middle East policy analyst Phyllis Bennis warned that "the U.S. history of linking airdrops of food and water with bombing raids is not a good one." In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Bennis added:
When, in November 2001, the U.S. bombed Afghanistan, desperate Afghans fled to the mountains to escape. They faced the cold with nothing, and the U.S. insisted on responding to their needs with an air drop — against the advice of experienced humanitarian organizations advocating old-fashioned, if less telegenic, truck and donkey convoys. [...]
Dropping food and water isn’t always the same as dropping bombs – but when it’s the U.S. Air Force, with cargo planes full of food and water accompanied by fighter jets and bombers, it’s way too easy for one to segue right into the other.
Though the Pentagon's statement assured military operations "limited in their scope and duration," in an op-ed in the New York Times this weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry wrote that "[w]hat’s needed to confront [the Islamic State's] nihilistic vision and genocidal agenda is a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force." He added: "Airstrikes alone won’t defeat this enemy. A much fuller response is demanded from the world."
The U.S. has conducted at least 115 airstrikes on Iraq since Aug. 8.