Hagel, speaking to troops in California, said the soldiers had arrived in the area around Iraqi Kurdistan's capital, Arbil, earlier in the day on Tuesday.
A U.S. defense official, in a statement issued as Hagel was speaking, said the soldiers sent to northern Iraq would “assess the scope of the humanitarian mission and develop additional humanitarian assistance options beyond the current airdrop effort in support of displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Sinjar Mountain by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed his country will join humanitarian airdrops in Iraq and did not rule out the possibility of greater military involvement.
Speaking in London after security talks, s Abbott said Canberra was in discussions with international partners on how to protect displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar by jihadist Islamic State militants.
“Australian aircraft will shortly be joining the humanitarian airlift and airdrop to the Mount Sinjar region and we are consulting with our partners including the United States, including the United Kingdom, about what further assistance Australia can give,” he said late Tuesday.
Last week, the United States launched an air campaign to break the siege of Mount Sinjar, bring humanitarian relief to the Yazidis and support Kurdish troops protecting their capital Arbil.
Washington has ruled out sending U.S. combat troops to the country, as has Britain, which has increased its support efforts and missions to supply humanitarian aid to refugees. (Reuters; AFP)
Photo: An F/A-18E Super Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-31) comes in to land onboard the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), in the Gulf August 12, 2014. Planes have been taking off from the aircraft carrier to strike key positions taken over by the Islamic State fighters in Iraq.