US ups humanitarian aid to displaced Iraqis

 

As al Qaeda-inspired militants seized several cities in Iraq, the United States announced Thursday that it will provide $12.8 million in aid to those displaced by the fighting.

The funds will be used to “provide immediate relief such as providing food, shelter and medicine” to those affected by the escalating conflict, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

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Psaki said the new funds bring the total U.S. contributions for Iraqis to more than $136 million in fiscal 2014. The U.S. has provided more than $1.1 billion in total humanitarian assistance to Iraq.

The U.S. urges other countries to provide donations as well.

Asked if the Obama administration plans to heighten security at U.S. embassies and outposts in Iraq, Psaki reminded reporters that such a change wouldn’t be indicated in advance. 

“We’re monitoring this as closely as possible,” Psaki said, but the State Department’s facilities in Iraq are currently operating on a “normal status.”

The additional U.S. assistance comes as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), once a part of al Qaeda, has taken over major cities in Iraq’s north in recent days, including Mosul and Tikrit. 

President Obama said Thursday that he won’t “rule out anything” to respond to the “emergency situation” in Iraq, except, Psaki said, for "boots on the ground."

A growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, are calling on the administration to consider launching airstrikes against the Sunni militants. 

Senators emerged from a classified briefing about Iraq on Thursday with some calling for strikes and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) saying the situation should force Obama’s entire national security team to resign. 

McCain is among several Republicans who have blasted the administration for pulling out of Iraq in 2011, which they say was too soon, as al Qaeda-inspired militants try to regain power there.