U.S. Special Operations forces in northern Iraq landed Wednesday on the Sinjar Mountains to assess the possibility of a humanitarian mission to rescue the Yazidi refugees under threat of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, U.S. officials told NBC News.
The Pentagon said in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. personnel, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development, concluded that there were fewer Yazidi on the mountain than was previously feared, which it said was partly because of U.S. humanitarian air drops, airstrikes on ISIS targets, the efforts of anti-ISIS Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and the successful evacuations of thousands of Yazidi under cover of night.
"The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped," the statement read. "Based on this assessment the interagency [team] has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely."
The Pentagon said the U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian assistance and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities. It said two C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft made a seventh airdrop of relief supplies Wednesday night, delivering 7,608 gallons of water and 14,112 meals.
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— Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube