Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

More than 1 million Iraqis have fled their homes as ISIS continues armed siege

Story highlights

  • Obama says military solution won't work without political change
  • U.S. seeking legal protections for 300 advisers
  • Iraqi forces take back control of country's largest oil refinery
  • Conflict in Iraq so far this year has displaced more than 1 million people, UNHCR says

More than 1 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes by conflict this year, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday -- a number likely only to rise as Islamist militants and Iraqi security forces battle for control.

A humanitarian crisis is brewing, as families who've fled fighting with little more than the clothes on their back seek water, food and shelter from the summer heat.

Meanwhile, the first of up to 300 U.S. military advisers will arrive in Iraq as soon as Saturday, a senior defense official told CNN. This first group from outside Iraq is expected to be very small, the official said.

In addition, some U.S. military personnel already in Iraq at the security cooperation office in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will be reassigned and become the first of the advisers to go to work, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

Secret video of ISIS smuggled out of Iraq

    Just Watched

    Secret video of ISIS smuggled out of Iraq

Secret video of ISIS smuggled out of Iraq 02:33
PLAY VIDEO
Mass exodus tears Iraqi families apart

    Just Watched

    Mass exodus tears Iraqi families apart

Mass exodus tears Iraqi families apart 01:56
PLAY VIDEO
ISIS launches online propaganda attack

    Just Watched

    ISIS launches online propaganda attack

ISIS launches online propaganda attack 02:48
PLAY VIDEO

An estimated 500,000 people fled Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, last week after it fell to fighters from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq put the number who fled Mosul, with its population of 1.6 million, at about 800,000.

Already, a half-million people were displaced from Iraq's western Anbar province, where Sunni militants have been dominant since early this year.

U.S. sending military advisers

For days, the United States has considered what to do about the militants, and on Thursday, President Barack Obama said he was prepared to send as many as 300 military advisers to Iraq, adding that America was not returning to a combat role in the country.

The first group of advisers will begin work by conducting an initial assessment of Iraqi troop capabilities and on what may be needed for a larger group of U.S. advisers, including additional security measures where they may be deployed, a senior defense official said Friday.

But the United States has not reached an agreement with Iraq to provide legal protections to the U.S. military advisers.

"We are pursuing something in writing," Kirby said Friday. He said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "is absolutely committed to making sure that our troops have the legal protections, and he would not do that on a nod and a wink."

Kirby said the U.S. did not foresee a problem getting the Iraqi government to sign such an agreement because Iraq had requested this U.S. support.

The United States withdrew its final troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, nearly nine years after leading the invasion that ousted longtime leader Saddam Hussein.

Al-Maliki under pressure

As ISIS, born from an al Qaeda splinter group and supported by many Sunni factions, continues its fierce advance in Iraq, senior U.S. officials tell CNN that the Obama administration is of the belief that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is not the leader Iraq needs to unify the country and end sectarian tensions.

Obama: We gave Iraq a chance

    Just Watched

    Obama: We gave Iraq a chance

Obama: We gave Iraq a chance 05:09
PLAY VIDEO
Will there be a third Iraq war?

    Just Watched

    Will there be a third Iraq war?

Will there be a third Iraq war? 02:51
PLAY VIDEO
ISIS takes chemical weapons complex

    Just Watched

    ISIS takes chemical weapons complex

ISIS takes chemical weapons complex 05:03
PLAY VIDEO

The Prime Minister's Shiite-dominated government is accused of fostering sectarian tensions by marginalizing Iraq's Sunni Arab and Kurd minorities.

Obama told CNN on Friday that U.S. military efforts are hopeless without a change in government.

"If we don't see Sunni, Shia and Kurd representation in the military command structure, if we don't see Sunni, Shia and Kurd political support for what we're doing, we won't do it," he told CNN's Kate Bolduan in an interview.

The complete interview will be aired Monday on CNN's "New Day."

ISIS takes old chemical facility

Fighting raged across Iraq. Iraqi security forces regained control of the Baiji oil refinery, the largest in Iraq, on Friday following a night of fighting, Iraqi security officials in Samarra told CNN.

Iraqiya State TV reported that Iraqi security forces killed an undisclosed number of ISIS fighters.

Also on Thursday, ISIS militants took control of a facility that Saddam Hussein once used to produce and store chemical weapons.

But the State Department doubts that the Al Muthanna complex contains any material of "military value."

"The materials in the bunkers, which date from the 1980s, are of little military value and would be very difficult to safely move," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday.

50 million forced from their homes worldwide, U.N. says

Kerry: U.S. would communicate with Iran, not work with it, against ISIS

Opinion: Ignore neo-cons, the last thing Iraq needs is more war

Transcript: Obama's remarks on U.S. response to Iraq crisis