WASHINGTON — The United States, as promised by President Obama, has stepped up its airstrike campaign in Iraq, hitting targets near Baghdad in the effort to help the Iraqi government win back territory seized by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Pentagon officials said Monday.
The offensive is the first expansion of the United States’ campaign against the Islamist militant group that Mr. Obama outlined last week in a speech to the nation.
The new campaign included a strike on Monday southwest of Baghdad and one the day before near Sinjar, Iraq, the Defense Department said in a statement. The strikes, the Pentagon said, go beyond the United States’ initial mission announced last month of “protecting our own people and humanitarian missions.”
The strikes on Sunday and Monday involved both attack and fighter aircraft, which the Pentagon said destroyed six vehicles near Sinjar and an ISIS combat post that was firing on Iraqi troops. The United States has now carried out 162 airstrikes across Iraq to counter an ISIS offensive that quickly gained ground in northern Iraq and Syria and set up what the group said was an Islamic caliphate.
Graphic | The Iraq-ISIS Conflict in Maps, Photos and VideoA visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria.
It was a small first step in what the president said last week would be a major and longstanding expansion of the military campaign against ISIS. That ambitious proposal includes American airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of 475 more military advisers to Iraq, bringing the total to 1,600.
Mr. Obama vowed that the United States did not intend to go it alone, and the administration said Sunday it had lined up support from Arab nations to help in the airstrike campaign, although officials would not say when that assistance would come or who would provide it.
Saudi Arabia has already agreed to provide a base to train Syrian fighters who oppose both ISIS and President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr. Obama announced the first airstrikes against ISIS in early August, when it appeared that the Kurdish capital, Erbil, would fall to the Islamists.
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(via NY Times)