Two and a half years after the Obama administration withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq — fulfilling one of the president’s campaign promises — the American military reengaged in combat operations when two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on Islamic militants last Friday.
As U.S. Central Command reported that U.S. planes and drones have conducted a number of “successful” airstrikes “to defend Yazidi civilians being indiscriminately attacked” by Islamic State terrorists near Mount Sinjar, where thousands, or even tens of thousands of men, women, and children have taken refuge. U.S. airstrikes are aimed at breaking the siege so those families can be rescued, President Barack Obama noted in his weekly address on August 9. He specified, as he has on numerous occasions, that the United States “cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world.” But “when countless innocent people are facing a massacre, as IS continues its systematic destruction of the entire Yazidis people” — action equitable with genocide — America must intervene, Obama reasoned. The defense of Erbil — a northern Iraqi city home to an American consulate and the capital of the oil-rich Kurdish Regional Government — is also paramount. The approach of well-armed IS guerrillas, who blew past U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi government forces over the course of the last several weeks and now control much of the country, forced the Obama administration to step up U.S. involvement in the Iraqi conflict last week.
“Now, even as we deal with these immediate situations, we continue to pursue a broader strategy in Iraq,” stated the president in an August 9 update on the United States’ unfolding military operations in the country. In other words, by providing humanitarian aid and targeted airstrikes on IS terrorists, the U.S. is both helping to “prevent these terrorists from having a permanent safe haven from which to attack America,” and allowing the “people of Iraq have the opportunity for a better future — the opportunity for which so many Americans gave their lives in Iraq in a long and hard war.”
The White House has published thousands and thousands of words on the situation in Iraq, but that slew of press releases leave a number of key questions unanswered.