August 2015 marks the one year anniversary of the assault by ISIL, or Daesh, on the Yezidi community in northern Iraq. The Yezidis are a non-Muslim, ethnically Kurdish minority, who have been viciously targeted and persecuted by Daesh. They were the victims of horrific atrocities as Daesh overran their villages. Thousands of men and boys were massacred; thousands of Yezidi women and young girls were abducted and forced into sex slavery -- suffering horrific abuse; hundreds of families fled to Mount Sinjar to escape the onslaught.
Their plight was a key reason for the United States to send humanitarian aid to Mount Sinjar and to begin airstrikes in support of ground forces, particularly the Peshmerga and other Iraqi forces, to come to the defense of the Yezidis and to stop Daesh’s advance, thereby preventing a possible genocide. In the weeks and months following, a Coalition of more than 60 partners, led by the United States, was formed with the goal of degrading and defeating Daesh. The Coalition has conducted more than 5,800 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the terrorist group since last August, and has helped the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces retake significant territory.
The Yezidi community still suffers, however, from its terrible encounter with Daesh – with tens of thousands of those who survived uprooted from their homes and living as refugees in camps, and some who are still enslaved by their Daesh tormentors.
At a recent visit to Erbil, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called the struggle against Daesh ”civilization fighting barbarism.” At a meeting with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani, Mr. Carter recognized the sacrifices made by the Kurdish Peshmerga and congratulated the president on the battlefield success they’ve achieved on the ground in coordination with U.S. and coalition air power. He said that the Peshmerga is the model of what the U.S. and its coalition partners are trying to achieve throughout Iraq and Syria when it comes to Daesh: a victory that will last because it is delivered and will be sustained by the people who live in the affected areas.
The fight against Daesh is “headed in the right direction,” said Defense Secretary Carter. “We’re trying to go as fast as we can. The pacing item is the local forces. But we will win. Of that, I don’t have any doubt that that’s the way we’re going to win.”