U.S. airpower continues to play a role in the ongoing fight against the remnants of the Islamic State.
At least one U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle was “part of coalition forces which conducted air strikes at request and approval of government of Iraq,” a defense official told Military Times Saturday afternoon.
The jets took part in a combined air and partner ground operation against ISIS targets in Iraq’s Salah-al-Din Governate, according to a tweet from Yahia Rasool, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
The attacks, in the Wadi al-Tharthar and Mutaybija areas north of Baghdad, destroyed two ISIS camps and two caves, killing at least two ISIS fighters, Rasool tweeted.
“The effects of @Coalition airstrikes & partner ground ops have left Daesh with no sanctuaries & crippled its ability to resurge,” Army Col. Wayne Marotto, CJTF-OIR spokesman, tweeted Saturday morning.
The airstrikes marked the second time in recent weeks that U.S. airplanes pounded ISIS targets in Iraq.
“Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, prime minister of Iraq and CINC, approved the use of coalition air power to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh in the Makhmour Mountains,” said Army Col. Wayne Marotto, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, in a statement to Military Times on March 24. “This is some tough terrain, and Daesh was hiding out in caves and tunnels. In support of the ISF, the U.S. Air Force F-15E and F-16 were part of the coalition air power used against Daesh to eliminate Daesh remnants.”
During Operation Ready Lion, coalition jets, as well as Iraqi air force and army aviation units, supported the ground operations with 312 airstrikes that destroyed 120 hideouts and positions and killed 27 “terrorists,” Marotto tweeted.
Rasool, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, wrote that the operation was launched March 9 in the Makhmour mountain range, southeast of Mosul, “targeting the remnants” of ISIS.
These recent airstrikes came after President Joe Biden ordered his first military action in February. A U.S. airstrike in Syria targeted facilities belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group, killing one fighter and wounding several others, an Iraqi militia official said Feb. 26, according to the Associated Press.
Pentagon officials said the strikes were retaliation for recent attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq, including a rocket attack in northern Iraq on Feb. 15 that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops.
John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said on Feb. 26 that two Air Force F-15E aircraft launched seven precision-guided munitions, fully destroying nine facilities and heavily damaging two others, rendering the two “functionally destroyed.” He said the facilities, at “entry control points” on the border, had been used by militia groups the U.S. deems responsible for a number of recent attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.