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White House Says Team Sent to Iraq Will Not Be in Combat Role

Wed, 13 Aug 2014 18:21:35 +0000

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House stressed on Wednesday that the 129-member military assessment team that has been sent to northern Iraq is “not going to be in a combat role.”

“They’re there on a temporary basis to make assessments about how to get the population off that mountain. This would be a humanitarian effort, again, to get them to a safe space,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters Wednesday. “There are a range of ways for doing that. We haven’t made decisions about how to carry out that vision because we want to get the readout from this assessment team first.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that the team was being sent to Erbil to determine what further assistance the U.S. can provide in easing the humanitarian crisis of thousands of Yazidis trapped at Mount Sinjar.

Rhodes said there are a range of options, including creating a safe corridor for the refugees to get off the mountain.

“You look at corridors, you look at airlifts, you look at different ways to move people who are in a very dangerous place on that mountain to a safer position. And that’s exactly what our team is doing on the ground now in Iraq,” he told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.

While President Obama has repeatedly ruled out sending U.S. ground troops to Iraq, Rhodes was adamant that “the role of U.S. forces is not one of re-entering combat on the ground. It’s how to provide humanitarian assistance to this affected population.”

Rhodes did, however, admit the danger in such a mission, saying “in any effort, there are always dangers involved.”


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