WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration may announce on Tuesday a decision to send more military advisers to Iraq, U.S. officials said, as the United States helps confront radical Islamist militants who threaten Iraqi minorities and the northern Kurdish enclave.
Several U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a decision to send at least 70 extra military personnel to Iraq was likely later in the day, but that internal discussions continued and a final decision had not been made.
Since fighters from the self-styled Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, seized much of northwestern Iraq in June, the United States has sent about 700 military personnel to protect U.S. diplomats there and take stock of Iraq’s military capacity.
Last week, U.S. planes began conducting airstrikes on forces of the Islamic State as they tried to advance on Arbil, capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, and attacked tens of thousands of civilians near the town of Sinjar.
U.S. aircraft also began nightly drops of relief supplies to the civilians, members of the Yazidi minority, who have been trapped for over a week on barren Mount Sinjar in need of food and water and under threat from the militants.
One official said part of the task of the extra personnel may be to assess ways to relieve the humanitarian crisis on Mount Sinjar.
Reporting By Missy Ryan; Editing by David Storey and Jonathan Oatis