President Obama announced tonight that he has authorized "targeted" airstrikes and humanitarian drops on Iraq. The airstrikes, Obama says, will be ordered if ISIS launches an attack on Erbil, where U.S. personnel are currently stationed. "When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I think the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye," he said.
"I know many of you are concerned about any military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these," Obama said. "I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq...American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq."
A U.S. official said roughly 70 pallets of water and meals-ready-to-eat were dropped into the mountains were the Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish religious minority, were taking refuge. Pentagon officials watched video the airdrops, conducted by both C-17 and C-130 cargo planes, recorded from an overhead surveillance plane. The cargo planes were escorted by American fighter jets, officials said.
There were multiple reports earlier today that the air strikes had already begun, but were quickly denied by Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary. The Pentagon told the New York Times that "it was possible that allies of the United States, either the Iraqi or Turkish militaries, had conducted the bombing."
The continued attacks led by Sunni militant group ISIS and their targeting of Christians and Yazidis in the country, Obama said, constitute a threat of genocide.
"Today, America is coming to help," Obama said.
[Image via AP]