Today, the State Department issued an update to its August 8 Travel Warning for Iraq noting the departure of a “limited” number of staff from our posts in Baghdad and Erbil to the Consulate General in Basrah and Amman, Jordan.
Numerous insurgent groups, including ISIL, previously known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persist in many areas of the country. ISIL and its allies control Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and have captured significant territory across central Iraq and continue to engage with Iraqi security forces in that region. In early August, the threat to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) increased considerably with the advance of ISIL towards Kurdish areas.
Due to the potential of political protests and demonstrations to become violent, U.S. citizens in Iraq are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings.
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Three days ago, President Obama ordered U.S. aircraft to drop humanitarian supplies to tens of thousands of Yezidi refugees fleeing the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq. The president also ordered U.S. combat aircraft to be ready to launch airstrikes to protect Americans in Erbil, Iraq.
On August 8, the Pentagon announced that at approximately 6:45 a.m. EDT, the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.
Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located. The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities.
Pentagon releases indicate that to date, U.S. military aircraft have delivered more than 52,000 meals and more than 10,600 gallons of fresh drinking water to the displaced Yezidis seeking refuge from ISIL on the mountain.
USCG Erbil which remains open is headed by Joseph Pennington, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who assumed his duties as Consul General in Erbil in July 2013. Prior to his arrival in Erbil, Mr. Pennington served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic (2010-13) and held the same position in Yerevan, Armenia (2007-10).
USCG Basrah is headed by Matthias Mitman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who assumed post as Consul General in Basrah in September 2013. He previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras from 2011-2013 and as the Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 2009-2011. He was the Director for Iraq at the National Security Council from 2006-2008 with responsibility for U.S. economic policy in Iraq and international engagement. Before joining the NSC staff, Mr. Matthias was assigned to U.S. Embassy Baghdad as Senior Economic Advisor.
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