U.S. Launches New Airstrikes in Iraq

The United States on Saturday air dropped humanitarian aid and conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in and around Amerli, a town 100 miles north of Baghdad that’s been under siege for over two months. The U.S. Air Force delivered aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, according to the Pentagon. The ...

ALI AL-BAYATI
ALI AL-BAYATI
ALI AL-BAYATI

The United States on Saturday air dropped humanitarian aid and conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in and around Amerli, a town 100 miles north of Baghdad that's been under siege for over two months.

The U.S. Air Force delivered aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, according to the Pentagon.

The U.S. dropped 109 bundles, according to U.S. Central Command. Carrying out the drop were two C-17s and two C-130s, delivering approximately 10,500 gallons of fresh drinking water and approximately 7,000 meals ready to eat.

The United States on Saturday air dropped humanitarian aid and conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in and around Amerli, a town 100 miles north of Baghdad that’s been under siege for over two months.

The U.S. Air Force delivered aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, according to the Pentagon.

The U.S. dropped 109 bundles, according to U.S. Central Command. Carrying out the drop were two C-17s and two C-130s, delivering approximately 10,500 gallons of fresh drinking water and approximately 7,000 meals ready to eat.

To support the humanitarian assistance mission, the U.S. military also conducted three airstrikes in coordination with the Iraqi security forces responsible for protecting Amerli, Centcom said in a statement.

Fighter aircraft struck and destroyed three Islamic State Humvees, one armed vehicle, one checkpoint, and one tank near the town. This bring the total number airstrikes conducted by the United States in Iraq since Aug. 8 to 118. Both operations Saturday were requested by the Iraqi government.

"The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amerli," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Saturday night.

Amerli, home to at least 13,000 Shiite Turkmen, has been under siege for over two months. Islamic State militants surrounded the town, and cut off food, water, and medical supplies to the thousands of people who live there.

Holding back the militants have been a few hundred local men, but without outside help they had little chance to hold them off much longer.

Calls for help in Amerli began earlier this month, and on Aug. 23, Nickolay Mladenov, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq, warned that immediate action was needed to "prevent the possible massacre of its citizens."

On Tuesday, Iraqi warplanes reportedly started bombing the area while Iraqi forces, aided by Shiite militias, prepared to launch a counteroffensive to break the Islamic State’s siege.

The Defense Department said it was monitoring the situation and ready to assist, if needed.

Local fighters had seen U.S. warplanes and drones flying over the besieged town for days but not striking, according to Hayder al-Khoei, an expert on Iraq at Chatham House, a policy institute based in London.

"Nobody’s taken our eye off of that township and the struggles in that township," Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon Friday.

Kate Brannen is deputy managing editor at Just Security and a contributor to Foreign Policy, where she previously worked as a senior reporter. Twitter: @K8brannen

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