Don't end Iraq rescue too soon

Iraqis from the Yazidi community chant anti-Islamic militant slogans in front of UN headquarters to ask for international protection in Irbil, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. (AP Photo)

There are conflicting reports about the need for a continued rescue operation for Yazidis trapped on Iraq's Sinjar Mountain. It would be a tragedy if the rescue is called off and the more pessimistic reports are true. The situation needs urgent clarification.

President Barack Obama, who last week said the Yazidi rescue mission was a major reason for resuming military operations in Iraq, said Thursday, "The situation on the mountain has greatly improved. ... We do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it's unlikely that we're going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain."

The president based his evaluation on the report of a team of about 20 U.S. military and civilian personnel who surveyed Mount Sinjar on Wednesday. They found that the Yazidis remaining on the mountain after thousands were evacuated are being helped to leave by Kurdish and Yazidi workers and that they have adequate food and water.

But reports from Kurdish workers and Yazidi refugees challenge this conclusion. Farhad Atrushi, the governor of the northern Kurdistan region's province of Dahuk, where nearly 100,000 Yazidis have taken refuge, told The Washington Post he was sure there are people who are still in need of rescue.

"For me, this is not correct," he said of the U.S. assessment that the Yazidis were no longer at risk. "I don't know the exact number, whether it is 10,000 or 15,000 or 5,000, but they are there."

His view was confirmed by another report that those remaining are largely the elderly, sick and children unable to make the strenuous journey off the mountain unaided. They are said to be suffering from a lack of food and water.

Ali Safar Murad, a Yazidi refugee who has remained on the mountain to help, told the Post that a group of about 100 have taken refuge near a shrine on the top of the mountain, but are dying from neglect. "We really need help," he said in a telephone interview. "There is no water and no food. It's mostly disabled people. Please, please tell the international community to come and save them."

Mr. Obama did the right thing in enabling the rescue of the Yazidis, driven from their homes by Islamic State terrorists. He must make sure that the mission is fully accomplished before calling it off.