US citizens evacuating Iraqi base amid unrest

Planeloads of U.S. citizens were evacuated from a major Iraqi air base north of Baghdad Thursday.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed Thursday evening that U.S. citizens were temporarily relocated in Iraq, but didn't detail where the moves were occurring.

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"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. The status of the staffing at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates has not changed," Psaki said.

Sectarian violence in Iraq has seen government facilities fall recently to an al Qaeda-affiliated group that is reportedly advancing on Baghdad.

Due to the evacuations, the U.S. training mission at the airfield in Balad has been grounded indefinitely, officials told the Associated Press.

A dozen U.S. personnel stationed at Balad were the first to be evacuated, they said. Several hundred more U.S. contractors are waiting to leave.

The evacuations come just a day after the State Department issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens in Iraq.

President Obama is now mulling options to get involved, possibly militarily, as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) takes over key cities in the country’s north. 

Psaki stated “boots on the ground” is not an option.

A growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling on the administration to launch airstrikes in Iraq to quell ISIS from gaining even more ground and more power.  

 

Updated at 6:11 p.m.