Two months after the US launched airstrikes in Iraq to drive back ISIS fighters and save the Yazidi sect from a humanitarian catastrophe, ISIS is still seizing villages and terrorizing the minority group, Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report for The Washington Post.
ISIS militants seized two Yazidi villages on Monday and have driven thousands out of their homes.
The onslaught is reminiscent of ISIS’s seizure of Yazidi lands around Mount Sinjar in August that sent 200,000 members of the religion fleeing into the mountains before President Obama authorised airstrikes against the group in Iraq.
As Musings on Iraq’s Joel Wing explained, ISIS had a plan to completely exterminate the group — and was well on its way to fulfilling this grisly objective when US airstrikes commenced. There’s no evidence the Islamic State has moderated its genocidal stance towards the group over the past couple of months, which means that thousands of Yazidis now find their lives newly endangered.
The ISIS assault reportedly took place under the cover of bad weather early Monday morning. The militants managed to push back volunteer Yazidi forces that had elected to stay behind on the mountain to defend the region. The group has also blockaded roads leading to smaller Yazidi communities located in the mountains that are now stranded with little food or water.
To turn the tide of the assault, Yazidi fighters have called for further US action in the region.
“We have so little ammunition, and they are advancing,” Khalid Qassim Shesho, a trapped Yazidi fighter on Mount Sinjar, told The Washington Post. “I can see five Humvees without using binoculars. We need planes!”
It is uncertain how many Yazidis remain atop Mount Sinjar and are at risk of the ISIS advance. Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, claimed that upwards of 2,000 people remained on the mountain and were at risk of slaughter, although another Yazidi lawmaker said that 700 families remained in the area.
The sudden militant advance underscores the failings of the US-led coalition effort to defeat ISIS through reactive airstrikes alone.
“The core problem is that the US does not have the strategic initiative,” Christopher Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War told McClatchy. “We are reacting to where ISIS is advancing, rather than proactively implementing a strategy to defeat them.”
The Yazidis have suffered harshly under the expansion of ISIS. The jihadists incorrectly view Yazidis as devil worshippers, leading the group to slaughter the male members of the sect while buying and selling female Yazidis as slaves.
According to Dakhil, ISIS has abducted some 25,000 Yazidi women.
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