Jun 12, 2014 10:00 PM by Rob Quirk
Officials say three planeloads of Americans are being evacuated from a major Iraqi air base in Sunni territory north of Baghdad to escape potential threats from a fast-moving insurgency.
A current U.S. official and a former senior Obama administration official say that means the American training mission at the air field in Balad has been grounded indefinitely.
Twelve U.S. personnel who were stationed at Balad were the first to be evacuated. Several hundred American contractors are still waiting to leave.
They have been training Iraqi forces to use fighter jets and surveillance drones.
Other U.S. contractors at a tank training ground in the city of Taji is still ongoing for now.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they refused to be named in discussing the sensitive situation.
Meantime, the White House says Vice President Joe Biden told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the United States is prepared to intensify and accelerate support for Iraq's security in the face of advances by Islamic insurgents.
The White House said Biden called al-Maliki Thursday morning.
The call came as the Obama administration was beginning to consider the possibility of drone missions in Iraq. Officials said Obama was not contemplating putting troops on the ground in Iraq.
The White House said Biden expressed solidarity with Iraq. Biden told al-Maliki the U.S. assistance would help, quote, "confront the urgent and growing threat" posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant insurgency.
Biden told al-Maliki that it was important that all of Iraq's communities be unified to defeat the ISIL.
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