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The United States dispatched more advisers to Iraq this week following the decision to begin a series of airstrikes in an effort to protect U.S. personnel and religious minorities from militants.

As the situation continues to unfold, here's what you need to know:

How many military advisers are in Iraq?

More than 400.

The Obama administration said Wednesday that 130 additional advisers were dispatched to northern Iraq this week to develop a rescue plan for religious minorities trapped on Sinjar Mountain.

The U.S. already had at least 300 advisers stationed in the country in non-combat roles to help train Iraqi troops.

Who are the Yazidis?

They are an ethnically Kurdish religious group.

Members of the sect were among the civilians who had been trapped on Sinjar Mountain without food or water. Thousands have been able to flee the mountain each night.

"The Yazidis ... are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The religion combines elements of different belief systems, including Islamic and Zoroastrian rituals.

According to the State Department, Yazidi leaders say most of the 500,000 to 700,000 Yazidis in Iraq today live in the north. They also live in Syria, Turkey and a few other countries.

Is the U.S. fighting the Islamist militants alone?

No.

The United States is arming Iraqi forces in order to fight against the Islamic State militant group. Britain and France have also committed to joining the U.S. in providing aid, according to the White House.

France said Wednesday that it will send arms to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

Why is the U.S. supplying weapons?

To fend off Islamist extremists.

The Obama administration has started arming Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State militant group, also referred to as ISIS or ISIL, in northern Iraq, officials said Monday. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, "ISIL has obtained some heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms, and we're providing those."

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What does the leadership situation look like in Iraq?

Changing.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Thursday night that he is stepping down. He had been under pressure from within his own party, other Iraqis and the U.S. government to leave the post.

On Monday, Iraqi President Fouad Massoum formally nominated Haider al-Abadi as a replacement for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki, initially said he intended to stay for a third term, but he announced Thursday that he had agreed to step down.

Obama told reporters Monday afternoon that the prospect of a new government in Baghdad is "a promising step forward." He called for the formation of a new Cabinet "as quickly as possible" and pledged U.S. support.

How long will the U.S. involvement last?

We don't know.

President Obama said Thursday that airstrikes would continue against militants. The U.S. has conducted 25 airstrikes in Iraq since it first intervened last week.

Obama said Monday that his "limited" military operations are making progress. He added that there is no U.S. military solution in Iraq.

Obama said he would commit no ground troops, but he would not give a timetable on the airstrikes."I don't think we are going to solve this problem in weeks," Obama said.

When did U.S. involvement escalate in the Iraqi crisis?

Aug. 7.

Obama said he authorized "targeted" airstrikes in northern Iraq. In addition, the U.S. started airdrops of food and water to religious minorities in Iraq who are under siege from Islamist militants and trapped on a mountaintop.

The United States "cannot turn a blind eye' while innocent families face the prospect of "genocide," Obama said.

Follow @JessicaDurando on Twitter

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