The United States has sent another 130 military advisers to northern Iraq to help local forces in their fight against Islamic militants. Meanwhile, Germany has pledged non-lethal military aid for Iraq's army.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to troops in California on Tuesday, said the 130 soldiers had arrived in the area around Iraqi Kurdistan's capital, Irbil, earlier in the day.
He said the team would, "assess the scope of the humanitarian mission and develop additional humanitarian assistance options beyond the current airdrop effort in support of displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Sinjar Mountain." Up to 30,000 members of the minority Yazidi group are trapped on the mountain, surrounded by "Islamic State" (IS) jihadists.
So far, the US has delivered food and water by cargo plane and carried out two airstrike missions against IS fighters. The US has also confirmed it has shipped arms and ammunition to Iraqi Kurdish forces.
Formerly known as ISIS, the "Islamic State" has taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria in the past two months, declaring a "caliphate" in the area under its control.
Hagel was sure to clarify that the move does not mark putting US boots on the ground. "As the president has made very clear, we're not going back to Iraq in any of the same combat mission dimensions that we once were in."
According to the Associated Press, the 130 are in addition to 90 US military advisers already in Iraq's capital, Baghdad and 160 in operations centers working with Iraqi security forces - bringing the total of US military advisers to 380. This does not, however, include personnel working in the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Also on Tuesday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced that Berlin would support Iraq's army by delivering non-lethal military aid such as armored vehicles, helmets, night-vision equipment, booby-trap detectors and medical supplies.
"If it is a question of preventing genocide, it is our duty to intensively discuss what can be done," the defense minister was quoted by the German news agency DPA as saying.
hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)