(NEWSER) – Another 130 Marines and special operations forces have been sent to Iraq to help rescue tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees still trapped on a mountain, but this "is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says. Speaking at California's Camp Pendleton, he described the extra American troops now in the northern city of Irbil as "assessment team members" who will assist the effort to help members of the Yazidi minority threatened by Islamic State extremists. A helicopter bringing supplies to people trapped on Mount Sinjar crashed yesterday after too many refugees climbed on board. More:
- As the plight of the refugees becomes increasingly desperate, American officials say a ground force may be necessary to get the refugees off the mountain, the New York Times reports. John Kerry says the 130 advisers will be tasked with finding a safe way out. "We will make a very rapid and critical assessment because we understand it is urgent to try to move those people off the mountain," he told reporters today.
- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, appears to have given up on trying to cling to power at any cost, theNew York Times notes. He has told troops deployed in Baghdad not to intervene in the crisis—and officials say the military has told Maliki he no longer has their support. Insiders say discussions on Maliki stepping down are now focused on immunity from prosecution. New Iraqi President Fouad Massoum has chosen deputy parliament speaker Haider al-Ibadi as Maliki's replacement.
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