Two U.S. F/A-18 jet fighters bombed artillery of Sunni Islamic extremists in Iraq on Friday, escalating America’s military involvement more than two years after President Barack Obama brought home forces from the country, CNN informs.
Obama authorized “targeted airstrikes” if needed to protect U.S. personnel from fighters with the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The U.S. military also could use airstrikes to prevent what officials warn could be a genocide of minority groups by the Islamic State fighters.
U.S. warplanes patrolling the skies over northern Iraq have a “green light” to go after perceived ISIS threats to the Kurdish capital, Irbil, or to minority populations, said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.
The first strike involved 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a “mobile artillery piece” used by ISIS at about 6:45 a.m. ET Friday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
It came in response to an Islamic State advance this week on what officials call U.S. interests in Iraq’s Kurdish region in the north. The militants took towns from the Kurdish fighting force known as the Peshmerga.
Before the onslaught, the region had been the most stable in Iraq and a cooperative ally of the United States. U.S. military advisers and consular personnel are stationed in Irbil.