As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues its southern sweep across a severely destabilized Iraq, non-government American workers in Baghdad are evacuating to undisclosed areas of the country by the planeload, the State Department told media today.
“We can confirm that U.S. citizens, under contract to the government of Iraq, in support of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program in Iraq, are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told media today. “The status of the staffing at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates has not changed.”
The U.S. Embassy in Iraq, a massive city within-a-city opened in 2009 at a cost of more than $700 million, has operated with a reduced (but still sizable) staff since American forces officially withdrew from the country in December of 2011.
The State Department, along with diplomatic offices of several other Western nations, issued a travel warning to civilian nationals in Iraq this week as ISIS-organized militia under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took control of key Iraqi cities north of the capital city in a show of force that has elicited mass surrenders from Iraqi forces.
According to The Hill, the State Department disclosed that U.S. citizens were evacuated from the region by the planeload today, with “several hundred more U.S. contractors” in queue to retreat ahead of the expected arrival of ISIS forces.
The Obama Administration resolved Thursday to review possible U.S. military options to bolster the Iraqi government’s feeble resistance to the al-Qaida-spinoff group, with possible air strikes appearing as the most viable option. Psaki said the Administration is not considering a “boots on the ground” operation.
Obama himself said a U.S. response would likely exchange some kind of military assistance for a commitment from the Iraqi government that it will listen to all options in cultivating a stronger defense strategy.
“In our consultations with the Iraqis, there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily,” Obama said today. “This should be also a wakeup call for the Iraqi government…There has to be a political component to this.”