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The Pentagon says US warplanes will soon start flying out of a base in northern Iraq as part of an expanded air campaign against the ISIL terrorist group.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said on Thursday that “armed and manned” US aircraft would fly from Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region.
So far, warplanes bombing ISIL positions in Iraq have been using bases and aircraft carriers outside Iraq. But attack helicopters have already been flying out of bases inside the country.
Kirby did not say what type of “manned” aircraft would be involved in the operation against ISIL, or how many fighter jets would be deployed to Erbil. “There are still some decisions that have yet to be made on exact sourcing solutions.”
But he stated that US airstrikes, which started on August 8, would be expanded to help Iraqi forces fighting against the ISIL militants. “The kind of support we’re going to be giving to Iraqi forces will be more aggressive from the air.”
Meanwhile, reports said retired US Marine General John Allen will coordinate international forces willing to fight ISIL terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Allen served as deputy commander in Iraq’s Anbar province from 2006 to 2008 and top US commander in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013.
Some forty countries have voiced readiness to join in the fight against ISIL Takfiri militants. According to the Pentagon, the United States already has conducted 154 airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq. In recent weeks, manned and unmanned US aircraft have flown surveillance flights and targeted ISIL strongholds.
Washington has also deployed over hundreds of troops to Iraq to bolster security for American diplomats and provide advice to Iraqi government forces fighting the militants.
The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, control large parts of Syria’s northern territory. ISIL sent its fighters into neighboring Iraq in June, quickly seizing large swaths of land straddling the border between the two countries.
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