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Al-Maliki Out as ISIS Advances; New U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS Targets; Interview with Rear Admiral John Kirby; First Look at U.S. Air Flight to Mount Sinjar; Highway Patrol Takes Over Security in Ferguson; President Calls for Calm in Ferguson

Aired August 14, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. A city on edge bracing for another night of possible unrest. The police chief calls Ferguson, Missouri, a powder keg. Call for healing. President Obama speaks out about the violence in Missouri as the Justice Department steps in to try to defuse the tension.

Stepping down. Iraq's prime minister yields to growing pressure and agrees to leave office without a fight. But there are new concerns about advances by ISIS militants.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. A St. Louis suburb reeling from unrest and growing fear. Scenes like this could be repeated in the coming hours. The Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, has just announced the state highway patrol will be taking over security in Ferguson, Missouri, the town thrust into the spotlight with the shooting of an unarmed black teenager. The outrage that's boiling over in protests and the dramatic police response.

We're also following the breaking news in Iraq where the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has just announced he is stepping down, clearing the way for a new government amid the growing ISIS threat.

We have our CNN global resources on both stories: comprehensive coverage with our reporters and our guests.

Let's begin with our national correspondent, Jason Carroll. He's in Ferguson, Missouri, for the very latest. What are you seeing there now, Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'm sure you can hear honking going on and you can still see some of the protesters who have already started to gather out here just as they did last night and the night before that.

Also out here, Wolf, we've already seen some 50 to 60 police cars, also SWAT team also on the ready. And basically in anticipation of what could happen out here again tonight.

Police as you know, Wolf, already criticized for their show of force out here last night. They were out here with a SWAT team in heavy riot gear. They used tear gas. They used bean bag rounds. They also used rubber bullets to disburse the crowds that had gathered out here last night.

In terms of what's expected here tonight, protesters that we've spoken to, Wolf, say they're going to be here in full force. Police say they're going to be out here, as well.

Last night during the melee, two journalists were arrested. Both of those journalists released. No charges filed.

Within the past hour, Missouri's governor spoke out and basically said there needs to be a change in tactics. He basically said it's time for people to come together to put their arms around each other. He says it's also OK for people to express themselves. And Wolf, he also introduced Captain Ronald Johnson. He is now going to be the man who's heading up security, and within the past hour, Captain Johnson spoke, as well.


CAPTAIN RON JOHNSON, HEAD OF SECURITY: I grew up here, and this is currently my community and my home. And therefore, it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence, defuse the tension and build trust, showing the utmost respect for every interaction with every citizen. I understand that the anger and fear that the citizens of Ferguson are feeling, and our police officers will respect both of those.


CARROLL: Again, Wolf, behind me you can see the demonstrators already out here. More expected out here again tonight. The governor saying once again that it's appropriate for the demonstrators to be out here, saying, quote, "It's time to step back and let some energy be felt in the region."

The Ferguson Police Department also saying once again, it is appropriate for demonstrators to be out here during the day and again at night. But they're going to have their tactical units on the ground in case there are people out here who they say intend to do more than just demonstrate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason, thanks very much. Jason Carroll in Ferguson.

President Obama broke from his vacation to speak out about the unrest in Ferguson. Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on Martha's Vineyard covering the president's vacation out there. Not much of a vacation at least part of the day today, Jim. Tell our viewers what the president had to say about the violence in Missouri.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, is just the latest crisis to crash the president's vacation here on Martha's Vineyard. As one aide put it, the situation was just not getting better, so the president decided to deliver an emotional plea for peace to both the protesters and the police.


ACOSTA (voice-over): As President Obama touted the breaking of one deadly siege in Iraq, he tried to defuse another powder keg on American soil. The mounting violence in Ferguson, following the police shooting death of unarmed Missouri teenager Michael Brown.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.

ACOSTA: On vacation in Martha's Vineyard, the president was briefed on the FBI and Justice Department investigations into Brown's death by Attorney General Eric Holder who's also spending some off on the island.

OBAMA: We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again.

ACOSTA: During a hastily arranged statement to reporters, Mr. Obama said there's no excuse for the looting after Brown's death, but the president also chastised local police in Ferguson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop videotaping. Let's grab our stuff and go.

ACOSTA: For detaining reporters from "The Washington Post" and "Huffington Post" who were just covering the story.

OBAMA: Police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.

ACOSTA: A problem fellow Democrats in Missouri worry may be spiraling out of control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been working to try to demilitarize the police response over the last 24 hours.

ACOSTA: For the president it's not the first time he's criticized local police, as he did in 2009 after the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.

OBAMA: The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.

ACOSTA: It was also an attempt to head off any racial unrest, a role he assumed after the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

OBAMA: You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.

ACOSTA: From Iraq to a spat with Hillary Clinton, this week is only further confirmation that a president is never truly on vacation. Still, seven minutes after a statement to reporters, the president was back on the golf course.


ACOSTA: And the White House says the president has no plans to end his vacation early. He does have a trip scheduled back to Washington, back to the White House for meetings there for two days on Monday and Tuesday. But aides to the president say he is headed back to Martha's Vineyard on Tuesday to finish off the rest of his vacation. But Wolf, clearly, if there's anybody who needs a vacation after their vacation, it's the president.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now with John Gaskin. He's with the St. Louis County NAACP.

Mr. Gaskin, thanks very much for joining us. What do you think of what the president -- I assume you heard what the president had to say today what's going on in Ferguson. What was your reaction?

JOHN GASKIN, ST. LOUIS COUNTY NAACP: I am so happy and so moved to hear that the president of the United States has used his office as president to speak out against the terrible police brutality that's been used within the last few days here in St. Louis County. He's been known to speak on these terrible issues about police brutality and that we need to do better.

And we as the local NAACP, and I'm sure the national, is very happy to hear that the president is speaking out about this.

BLITZER: But he also said there is never any excuse to attack police officers either, right?

GASKIN: There's never an excuse to attack officers. We at the NAACP are strongly encouraging people to stay calm but also exercise their rights. Make their voices heard and be able to display what it is that's taking place here on the ground.

But we certainly don't want anyone to get hurt. It's never excusable for someone to hit an officer or to engage with law enforcement, because we want people to be mindful here on the ground. You have law enforcement that's on the edge and very, very upset. And as we've seen, will make some decisions that could potentially end people's lives. And we don't want any more bloodshed here on the ground.

BLITZER: No one wants any more bloodshed. What do you think about the governor's decision to remove, for all practical purposes, the St. Louis County Police and bring in the highway patrol, the state highway patrol? What's your reaction to that?

GASKIN: Well, it's kind of two-fold. I'm very -- we're relieved to see that the governor has finally intervened on this matter and said something as the state's leader. We are happy that it's now a priority to him, because it's been a major priority to us. And I think it was a real sign when it became a major priority to the president of the United States.

But we hope that allowing the state police to intervene and to provide some protection to these people to make them feel secure, which is what law enforcement on the ground is supposed to do, serve and protect, we hope that the state's police -- I have confidence that the state's police will do their job, protect people but also allow them to be able to observe their rights here on the ground and voice their concerns for sure.

BLITZER: The Ferguson police chief called the situation in the city there in Ferguson a powder keg. He's going to be speaking shortly having another news conference. What do you want to hear from the police chief in Ferguson?

GASKIN: The first thing we want to hear from the police chief -- and the local NAACP had discussed this this afternoon -- is an apology to the family. We know that no charges have come up just yet. But I think it would be very comforting to the community, to the Brown family, to hear an apology for the pain and the suffering that that they have had to go through, considering that their son has been killed by local law enforcement within their own neighborhood.

The second thing we want to hear is we want to hear some more details about this case. We want to hear ways that they're cooperating with the Justice Department, that they're cooperating with the feds and ways that we can look begin to look down the road in the future on how police brutality can begin to be eliminated, as I've stated on your network previously.

This is not the first time that this local police department has had an issue with the way that they treat BMWs, as we say at the NAACP, black men walking. The Ferguson Police Department has had issues. There are other municipalities within St. Louis county that have had the issues, that we've sat back, we've voiced that. And I'm so very happy, although it's unfortunate that a young black man has been killed, that there's finally going to be some light shed on this issue.

And it's our hope that the American Congress will use this policy window as an opportunity to address police brutality on a national stage in Congress.

BLITZER: John Gaskin of the NAACP there in St. Louis County. Mr. Gaskin, thanks very much for joining us.

GASKIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're learning new information about the investigation into the shooting that sparked all of this. Plus the history of racial tension in Ferguson. We've uncovered some disturbing new information. Much more of the breaking news, that's coming up.


BLITZER: Those are live pictures from Ferguson, Missouri. The town is clearly on edge right now.

We're following the breaking news, a fifth night of protests about to begin in Ferguson, continuing fallout from the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager.

The intense police response has drawn national concern. And the governor of Missouri has just announced that the Missouri Highway Patrol will be taking over in Ferguson.

CNN's Jake Tapper, the anchor of THE LEAD, is on the scene for us. So Jake, what are you seeing right now?

TAPPER: Well, there are protests right here -- protesters right here where this burnt-out convenience store is from Saturday night's rioting, I suppose, is the only term for it. This has been called ground zero. You heard Governor Jay Nixon refer to it as that.

Not long away I went down the street to Canfield Green, the area, the housing development where the young man, Mike Brown, was shot and talked to several people in the community. There's real frustration there, because they still don't know anything about the shooting. They don't know how many times he was shot. They don't know the names of the -- the name of the officer who did the shooting.

And one member of the community pointed out to me it's not as though the police hasn't been releasing other information, for instance the names and hometowns of those who have been arrested for looting and other activities. They have been published in the newspaper, as opposed to this officer. Of course, the officer has not been charged with anything, Wolf, which is, of course, the biggest source of frustration.

BLITZER: Well, the police say he could be in endangered if his name were out there, that there would be threats, death threats against him. Is that something that's understood there, or how are people reacting to that -- that suggestion, shall we say?

TAPPER: I think a lot of people don't buy it, and a lot of people in the community think that there's such a tension between the police and the community right now, attention that the governor acknowledged by basically swatting away the Ferguson Police and the St. Louis County Police and saying, "You're not in charge of security for this area anymore." That is a huge vote of no confidence by the governor of Missouri.

So I think there's a lot of trust that needs to be developed. And one of those degrees of trust, as I've been told by members of the community here, is a little bit more transparency and being forthcoming about what happened: who did this, what is the official explanation? They have seen bullet holes and bullets taken out of their homes from the incident that night.

Well, how is the investigation going? What else is -- are the police able to tell them about what happened that night? This is a community that is grieving and is in mourning, but it's also a community that is very frustrated, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jake, thanks very much. Jake Tapper on the scene for us.

The attorney general, Eric Holder, criticizing what he calls the extreme display of force by police in Ferguson.

And we're learning now new information about the investigation into the police shooting of the 18-year-old Michael Brown. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM working the story for us.

CNN has interviewed a lot of eyewitnesses and others who were there, but this federal investigation, the justice investigation only just beginning

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We're learning, Wolf, that the investigation was launched earlier in the week but that investigators, federal investigators have begun interviewing eyewitnesses who claim to have been there at the scene when the shooting, that Michael Brown shooting occurred on Saturday.

We've learned from a source that Dorian Johnson, the key witness here, ha has been interviewed by federal authorities. Dorian Johnson says that he was actually walking with Michael Brown when he was shot and killed, and in fact, Wolf, you interviewed Dorian Johnson. Here's what he told you in his account.


DORIAN JOHNSON, WITNESS: I see the officer proceeding after my friend, Big Mike, with his gun drawn and he fired a second shot and that struck my friend Big Mike. At that time, are he turned around with his hands up beginning to tell the officer that he was unarmed and to tell him to stop shooting, but at the same time, the officer was firing several more shots into my friend. And he hit the ground and died. I watched him until his body stopped moving, and then I ran.


BROWN: So that is Dorian Johnson's account. Other eyewitnesses on the scene give similar accounts. They claim that Brown surrendered, that he held his arms up in the air. However, police, of course, are giving a different story, saying that there was an altercation and that Brown tried to steal the officer's gun.

But I can say that interview with witnesses, key witnesses like Dorian Johnson is the first major step in the investigation. Of course, it's easy to actually interview the witnesses, but it's another thing, Wolf, to actually get an accurate account because of conflicting reports from witnesses. We have conflicting reports, as I said, from the police department and from those that were actually on the scene bystanders.

BLITZER: This FBI Justice Department investigation is going to go on, I suspect, for a while. Pamela Brown, thanks very much for that report.

Coming up, the town's troubled history on race. We're learning new information about the years of tension between police and residents in Ferguson. Plus, there's major breaking news coming out of Iraq. The prime

minister, Nouri al-Maliki, stepping down as ISIS militants push further into the country. We're going live to Baghdad.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The Missouri state highway patrol now taking over security in Ferguson, Missouri, as the St. Louis suburb braces for another night of protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. Let's get some more on the situation.

Joining us now two guests. Charles Moose is the former police chief from Montgomery County, Maryland. He's joining from us Tampa. And Yamiche Alcindor is a reporter for "USA Today." She's in Ferguson.

Chief Moose, first to you. What do you -- how do you deal with, there's a long history of racial tension in Ferguson. What do you think needs to be done to overcome that during these critical hours and days that we're watching?

CHARLES MOOSE, FORMER POLICE CHIEF, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND: Well, I think one of the key things, Wolf, is that you have to have some different style of leadership. The releasing of the name of the officer, meeting with the community, hearing what the community has to say, just reaching out to people in the community from the police department, but also from the other leaders in the community. All facets of the community need to be involved. There needs to be a meeting. There needs to be contact.

Other people in the community besides the black community, I think, are certainly concerned about the situation, and they also need to be involved. Political leaders need to be part of the peaceful protests. Other people need to show that they care, need to show that they are concerned and that they have respect for the people in this community.

BLITZER: Yamiche, as you know, the governor has basically kicked out the St. Louis County Police and brought in the state highway patrol. Is that going to help?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, REPORTER, "USA TODAY": People here tell me that that's going to help. A lot of people that I talked to in the apartments where Michael Brown was shot said that they're really tired of seeing thanks and tear gas and fatigues and rifles. They say that they hope the Missouri highway patrol will have a different tactic. They haven't dealt with them yet, but they're really looking forward to a change of tone here.

A lot of people said that they felt caged in. One man told me that he felt like he was being treated like an animal, that he was trying to just sit on his porch. He felt there were just police everywhere. So I think people are definitely looking forward to this and re optimistic that this change is really going to help the situation here.

BLITZER: Chief Moose, a lot of our viewers will remember you from the days when you were leading that investigation into those snipers who were killing people in D.C., greater Washington, Maryland, Virginia area. So you have long experience in this kind of work.

But this militarization of these local police forces, you see these guys coming out with armor and sophisticated military weapons. Does that send the wrong message to the folks out there?

MOOSE: It clearly sends the wrong message in this situation, Wolf. In the United States of America, there's a long history of people taking to the streets to protest peacefully, you know, following the guidelines of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Protest as a way to change things.

There needs to be a public apology, not only for the incident that occurred but apology about the approach that's been taken in dealing with the people in this community. Having officers sit on top of tanks with sniper rifles pointed at a crowd, just simply trying to protest and get the information, get the name of the person that has traditionally always been released, police officers don't merit the right to act in total anonymity.

So this -- this whole shutdown and closure of feedback and conversation is unacceptable.

BLITZER: Yamiche, you're a journalist out there. We have two journalists were effectively arrested, a little bit roughed up last night. What kind of effect has that had on you and our journalistic colleagues who are trying to cover the story for the American public?

ALCINDOR: Honestly, I think it really put us on edge. It really made us think, OK, this is not just about controlling protesters but that this might be about controlling everybody in the situation, including journalists.

But I think for me as a journalist, I was thinking, OK, I need to make sure that I'm really listening to what they're saying, that I'm really, like, going above and beyond to really just follow whatever -- whatever they tell me to do.

I think -- but I also think it really in some ways emblazoned us. It really in some ways made me feel like I really do want to be heard. I really do want to tell these stories, because for me, it really meant that I could -- I could tell you stories and that I have a privilege to be able to be a journalist and that we need to be able to really think about that First Amendment.

So, for me, it's really about the idea that journalists I think are supportive here and journalists I think are really inspired to continue reporting the way that we have.

BLITZER: Chief Moose, what do you think about not releasing the name, the identity of the police officer who shot and killed that young black teenager?

MOOSE: Wolf, I find that, you know, unacceptable. The fact that you are a public servant means the fact that you're going to get your name exposed. When my wife and I moved to a troubled neighborhood when I was police chief in the city of Portland, Oregon, people knew where we were. That resulted eventually into some time of protests in front of my house. But again, we weren't injured, we weren't harmed. People were expressing their concerns.

This is what people do. Most police officers in today's world drive the car home, they park it in front of their house and their driveway so they're not living in these neighborhoods in anonymity. And for them to pretend that they're going to keep this a secret, that this officer is never going to be identified, that somehow he's going to go into the witness protection program or something, I don't know what the joke is. But they need to just release his name. Release his history. And be open with people.

He's been serving in that community. It's a fairly small police department. You would think that if he's been a good police officer, people in that community already know who he is, they know him and he's living off his reputation. So to try to hide now is totally inappropriate.

BLITZER: Chief Moose, Charles Moose, the former Montgomery County, Maryland, police chief, Yamiche Alcindor, reporter for "USA Today," thanks to you both very much for joining us.

A very, very sensitive and potentially another night of explosive protests that we're watching. We'll see what happens. Let's hope it's quiet.

We're going to continue to watch all the developments in Missouri. Much more coming up on that. But there's also important breaking news coming out of Iraq as ISIS militants advance in another direction. Iraq's embattled prime minister announces just a little while ago he is stepping down.

Also a story you will see first right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. A long distance U.S. humanitarian flight bringing aid to Iraqis stranded on Mount Sinjar.


BLITZER: We'll continue to follow the events near St. Louis. But there's other important breaking news we're following in Iraq. Where the embattled prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has just announced he is stepping down.

Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is joining us now live from Baghdad.

Update our viewers, Nick, what happened.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: People have been waiting for this announcement from Nouri al-Maliki for days, possibly even weeks. Iran, again, and Saudis saying step down. Washington, Paris, the Shiites, his allies are saying same thing. Finally he took to the stage surrounded by Shiite politicians and said he was stepping down. Said he couldn't in self-pitying tones endure another wound on his body, talked about his achievements as prime minister and said really he was stepping down to make sure there was no innocent blood spilt.

Trying to look really like here the unifying figure when really many view him as a sectarian who's fostered division in his time here. But now his one side potentially Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister designate, has a chance to form a cabinet, already getting strong support from Washington. But he does have to show some sense of unity between the Sunnis and the Shia that's been key to allowing ISIS to sweep through territory in the north, worrying signs that they (INAUDIBLE).

Wolf, a key thing on the new prime minister's agenda. They are now pushing ISIS towards towns between the Kurdish area and Baghdad. Potentially now seizing large amounts of important territory and cutting the Kurds off from the capital fighting around the town called (INAUDIBLE) today.

That stopping that advance is the first thing on Haider al-Abadi's plate. If he becomes prime minister and he's going to need to show national unity to get international assistance, particularly the U.S. military assistance, more on Iraq's side to hold that advance -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Nick Paton Walsh in Baghdad.

President Obama says the United States will continue airstrikes to protect U.S. facilities and personnel in Iraq and we're just getting word of new strikes.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what have you learned?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a new series of strikes nearer Irbil in northern Iraq. Pretty interesting. One of them was to destroy an MRAP vehicle, those are the vehicles the U.S. sold to Iraq that are the ones that U.S. troops had been using to avoid Iraqi IEDs during the war. So kind of it all comes full circle.

But I want to show you a really amazing photo. This is a first look at the U.S. Special Forces team that went to Mount Sinjar to talk to the people there and find out what was going on. The very first look at American personnel on Mount Sinjar. President Obama having to approve this mission because it was so risky and uncertain. But when the team came back, they came back with information no one expected.


STARR (voice-over): U.S. fighter jets are still patrolling the skies over Iraq looking for signs of ISIS on the move. But on Mount Sinjar, a stunning turn of events. Just a few days ago, concerns about genocide and an urgent need for action.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're working with international partners to develop options to bring them to safety. STARR: But within hours of a U.S. Special Forces team returning from

the mountain, their assess the was accepted by the White House. The U.S. says now it does not need to mount a massive rescue effort for what was said to be tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped there.

OBAMA: We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar. We helped vulnerable people reach safety. And we helped save many innocent lives.

STARR: The Pentagon says airstrikes will continue if the U.S. sees ISIS begin to attack. U.S. officials say they were prepared for the worst-case scenario, a massive rescue effort based on seeing news reports including CNN footage of desperation on the mountain as well as their own drone footage. But now that U.S. troops have seen for themselves the conclusion is only a few thousand people are left and the airstrikes have kept ISIS at bay. The initial intelligence about the mountain was wrong. But this time, they say, that's good news.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: In a situation like this, if you're going to have an estimate, where it comes down to saving people's lives or helping save their lives I'd rather be high and frankly I'd rather be wrong in the end.

STARR: The few thousand Yazidis left received another humanitarian air drop of food and water but the Pentagon also says this may be the last one. The military team says it found several pallets still unopened and apparently unneeded.


STARR: But the reality in Iraq right now is ISIS is far from down and out. They are still on the march, of course. And many Iraqis, tens of thousands of Iraqis still suffering, still trying to make their way to safety -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I would say hundreds of thousands, not just tens of thousands.

Barbara, thanks very much.

Joining us now rear, Admiral John Kirby, he's the spokesman for the Department of Defense.

Admiral, thanks very much for coming in.

KIRBY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We heard from Marie Harf, the deputy spokeswoman at the State Department, today. There is -- in her own words there is still a potential here for genocide. Is that true?

KIRBY: We believe so. Absolutely. I mean, look, just because things are better on Mount Sinjar and we're glad for that doesn't mean that we are forgetting that there's still humanitarian issues inside Iraq. And there's still great suffering. And ISIL remains brutal and barbaric and absolutely we're still concerned about genocidal type deaths. BLITZER: So genocide against this small religious community, the

Yazidis, Christians, Shiites? Who should fear genocide?

KIRBY: I think everybody should fear ISIL inside Iraq. And I think that's why everybody's taking this threat so seriously.

BLITZER: So -- because the president in his remarks today, he said the U.S. is going to try to help as many people as possible.

KIRBY: Right.

BLITZER: Does that open the door now that Mount Sinjar apparently is resolved? Fortunately it's not as bad as we thought it was going to be and people are escaping, they're leaving down this corridor through the mountain and that's all good and they've got food and water. But what about all these other places? Because the president himself said it was a dire situation.

KIRBY: Absolutely. And I think we would agree with that. Of course. We're going to continue to monitor and assess the situation on the ground with respect to humanitarian issues. And if there's a -- if there's military assistance that can be provided we're certainly going to be prepared and postured to do that.

I would also add that we're working with international partners because this can't just be an American response or even just an American military response. You know, we're looking for international partners here. And there have been some. But this is really something that the entire national community should be concerned about.

BLITZER: Because there are limits as to what photo reconnaissance, satellite imagery can do. You had to send people, U.S. military personnel, Special Operations forces on top of the mountain to get a clear assessment of what's going on. I assume you're going to have to do that in a lot of places throughout Iraq right now if there's such great fear of genocide.

KIRBY: Well, it would depend. I mean, you can have a better picture in some places than others. But overhead ISR has its limits. It's a terrific asset but it's not going to tell you everything.

BLITZER: You've got to really check on the ground to see what's going on. So there's a new prime minister now. Nouri al-Maliki is -- he said just a little while ago, he's gone. So does this open the door for new U.S. military-to-military cooperation with the Iraqis?

KIRBY: We've had terrific military-to-military cooperation with the Iraqis since we left in 2011. You know, we have a small team there at the embassy that maintained a good relationship with them. And we look for that to continue. Seeing the reports about Prime Minister Maliki's comments and certainly if true we welcome that. It's now time to form a cabinet, form a unity government and try to be more responsive to the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: Why did they collapse? The Iraqi military when these ISIS forces were coming in towards Mosul, they have a -- this is a big army, the Iraqi army. They have several hundred thousand troops that the U.S. trained, the U.S. armed, the U.S. financed. In the face of a few thousand ISIS guys coming in, they leave their bases, they run away. They leave a lot of sophisticated U.S. military hardware there for the ISIS troops now to use to kill a lot of people.

What happened to them?

KIRBY: When we left in 2011, we believe and we said and we reported to Congress that we were leaving an Iraqi Security Force that was credible and capable for the threat that they were facing at the time.


KIRBY: Now the threat --

BLITZER: That turned out not to be true.

KIRBY: The threat has changed, though, since 2011. But also what happened was that the Iraqi government squandered the opportunity that American troops gave them. We left them with a competent Iraqi Security Force but they didn't manage it, equip it, train it, man it as well as it should have, administer it, and lead it as well as it should have. So what happened up in the north we think was a lack of will and a lack of leadership.

BLITZER: Do you have a number how many active duty U.S. military personnel are in Iraq right now?

KIRBY: Right now in total just over 900. A hundred of those were already there at the embassy in this office of security cooperation. And then we've added just a little bit more than 800 --

BLITZER: Is that number going to go up, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000? Because, you know, the word mission -- words mission creep, they keep coming up.

KIRBY: There's not going to be mission creep here. The president has been very clear what our goals and objectives are. Mission creep is when the goals and objectives change. They've not changed and we've been working at them efficiently.

BLITZER: Because the two goals remain the same. One?

KIRBY: One is to continue to continue to look at the humanitarian situation, work with international partners to try to alleviate that. The other is to protect U.S. personnel and facilities. And we're doing that through airstrikes.

BLITZER: John Kirby is the spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Real Admiral, thanks for coming in.

KIRBY: Thanks for having me. BLITZER: Up next, compelling new video on a story you will see first

here in THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN's Gary Tuchman rides along with a U.S. military crew taking the long way to bring some humanitarian aid to Iraqis on Mount Sinjar. You're going to see it for the first time, that's coming up.

And right at the top of the hour, we're going to go live to the St. Louis suburb where the Missouri Highway Patrol is now getting ready to take the lead security role hoping to head off another night of trouble.


BLITZER: Recapping today's breaking news, President Obama says the United States broke the seizure on Mount Sinjar, saving many innocent lives. Now for the first time we're getting a closer look at the long distance humanitarian aid operation.

Let's go to CNN's Gary Tuchman.

Gary, what are you seeing?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for the last weeks, U.S. troops, two overseas airbases, including the one I'm standing at right now have been working very hard to literally save people's lives. They believe they've been successful and that's one of the reasons their mission may be finished.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): This huge aircraft flew on the most recent humanitarian mission over northern Iraq. An eight-person crew loading eight tons of food aboard this U.S. Air Force C-130. Flying out of a base in Southwest Asia, the U.S. military asking us not to disclose the exact location but the location where the plane flies to is well- known. Mt. Sinjar, where so many Yazidis have been trapped and where the most important part of this mission takes place. The release of the emergency provisions that are attached to mini parachutes.

Over the last week, there have been seven of these missions. The Air Force and Army working together.

BRIG. GEN. DAN MITCHELL, U.S. ARMY: We've delivered 35,000 gallons of water and 114,000 meals.

COL. DREW DUCKETT, U.S. ARMY: It's been a herculean effort but a successful mission.

TUCHMAN: However, for now, the missions have come to a halt with President Barack Obama giving credit to soldiers and airmen and saying --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of these efforts, we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain and it's unlikely that we're going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain. TUCHMAN: Lt. Col. John Boccieri, a former congressman from Ohio, is

one of the leaders of this missions. A squadron commander.

LT. COL. JOHN BOCCIERI, U.S. ARMY: This is one of those opportunities that we have to serve and actually improve the conditions of people who are in great need and that always makes us feel very proud.

TUCHMAN: The C-130 is a workhorse in the U.S. Military's aviation fleet. This plane when empty weighs 82,000 pounds. Because it takes troops and cargo in dangerous missions it has a multitude of safeguards in case of an accident.

(On camera): This plane is built to maximize the chances of crew member survival. For example, there's an escape hatch in case the plane goes down in the water or in hostile territory.

(Voice-over): But these planes performed flawlessly during the humanitarian operation. The crews flying them telling us this mission was very rewarding.

BOCCIERI: I know I speak for many of the airmen and women I serve with. It made us feel it was worth it, all the training and the sacrifices that we give to our country that were actually able to improve the conditions of people we were trying to help.


TUCHMAN: U.S. fighter aircraft accompany these huge cargo planes as they fly into northern Iraq. But once again, these humanitarian drops appear to be done -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they may be done there but they potentially, Gary, they could start up again in other locations. There are tens and thousands, if not hundreds of thousands Iraqis who have fled their homes.

TUCHMAN: Absolutely, Wolf. And that's one reason why people aren't standing down just yet. This is a phase that's over. It may be over completely but there is a chance, as you said, they could move to another part ISIS -controlled northern Iraq and continue the mission someday soon.

BLITZER: I suspect they will.

All right, Gary, thanks very much. Gary Tuchman, with that exclusive report.


Coming up, more of the breaking news from Ferguson, Missouri, facing a possible fifth night of unrest. We're going there live.

And can the Missouri Highway Patrol keep the peace as it takes over the town's security? I'll talk to a top official.