The United States has not ruled out using American ground forces in an operation to extract thousands of desperate civilians trapped on a mountain by Islamist militants, but they will not engage in combat, a senior White House official said on Wednesday. A team of 130 U.S. military personnel is in the Kurdistan capital of Arbil, urgently drawing up options ranging from creating a safe corridor to an airlift to rescue those besieged on Mount Sinjar for over a week, most of them members of the Yazidi religious minority. “These 130 personnel are not going to be in a combat role in Iraq,” White House deputy spokesman Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama, who is on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard island in Massachusetts. Rhodes noted that Obama had repeatedly ruled out “reintroducing U.S. forces into combat on the ground in Iraq.” But he added: “There are a variety of ways in which we can support the safe removal of those people from the mountain.” Rhodes said the intention was to work with Kurdish forces already operating in the region and with the Iraqi military.
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