Washington: The US military today began its air strikes on areas in Iraq controlled by Islamist militants as it dropped laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery in a bid to halt the advance of terrorists on the city of Erbil where Amrican diplomats are stationed.
“Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where US personnel are located,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
“The decision to strike was made by the US Central Command commander under authorisation granted him by the commander in chief,” he said.
“As the (US) President made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities,” Kirby said.
Late last night, in an address to the nation, President Barack Obama announced that he has ordered for targeted military strikes against ISIL.
He said in recent days, terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at US consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.
“To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city,” he said.
“We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad. We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL,” Obama said.
However, Obama reiterated that he will not allow the US to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. “And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces,” he said.
“The US military will also remain ready to conduct targeted air strikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq fighting to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect Iraqi civilians trapped there,” US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement from New Delhi where he is travelling.
“In addition, we are prepared to conduct air strikes to protect American personnel against ISIL terrorist convoys should they approach Erbil,” the Defense Secretary said.