Expanding airstrikes in Iraq on the Islamic State, US warplanes have bombed jihadist positions southwest of Baghdad for the first time.
The US Central Command said early Tuesday that the attack was launched after Iraqi forces called for assistance. It said at least one Islamic State position was destroyed.
The US began airstrikes on August 28 in northern Iraq to support the recapture of the Mosul Dam, to relieve Islamic State pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan, and to help the evacuation of refugees from Mount Sinjar.
American jets hit the jihadists for the first time in western Iraq last week, helping Iraqi forces hold the Haditha Dam.
Another US mission on Tuesday targeted Islamic State positions near Mount Sinjar, destroying six vehicles.
The US has now carried out 162 aerial attacks since August 8.
Head of US Military: Special Forces Can Deploy on Ground in Specific Operations
Effectively confirming a reality on the ground, General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend special forces against the Islamic State in specific operations.
The US has acknowledged sending special forces into Iraq as advisors since the Islamic State’s advance in June, but has not publicly declared their role in actions in support of US airstrikes that began in early August.
Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee:
My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true. But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the President and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.
The General acknowledged that President Obama’s “stated policy is that we will not have US forces in ground combat,” but he added, “He has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis.”