American military planes have conducted 154 airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq, damaging or destroying 162 of their Humvees, armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
A total of 1,143 U.S. noncombat troops are now in Iraq, all but 100 of them dispatched since President Barack Obama started sending military advisers back to the war-torn country in June.
Among the advisers, 289 Army Green Berets are helping run Joint Operations Centers in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and in Irbil, the capital of the embattled country’s northern Kurdish region.
Hours before Obama was to tell Americans his plan for defeating the Islamic State in a prime-time speech, the Pentagon for the first time released a comprehensive tally of its five-week bombing and humanitarian relief campaign.
Since U.S. warplanes began targeting the militants Aug. 8, they’ve carried out 154 strikes, including a bombing raid Tuesday that a defense official said destroyed an Islamic State “armed vehicle” outside the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
Ninety-one of the raids by fighter jets, bombers and drones have been in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, the country’s largest, which Kurdish Peshmerga forces took back from Islamic State fighters last month with the help of U.S. air support.
Twenty-nine U.S. airstrikes have been in and around Irbil, the key northern Iraq city where several dozen U.S. Army Green Berets dispatched by Obama in June are running the Joint Operations Center with Iraqi security forces.
The American warplanes have conducted 17 additional bombing raids in and around Haditha, another important city 169 miles northwest of Baghdad, and 13 near Mount Sinjar where the U.S. airstrikes last month helped free hundreds of Yazidi refugees who’d been surrounded by Islamic State fighters.
The U.S. air campaign has been concentrated in a 16,000-square-mile region making up about one-tenth of Iraq’s territory and stretching from Amerli northwest of Baghdad to Mount Sinjar further to the northwest and east of there to Irbil.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month set up a U.S.-led international group of more than a dozen nations to aid the embattled Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.
At part of that initiative, U.S. military planes have conducted several missions to deliver arms and equipment to the Kurds from the partnership countries, the Pentagon said.
Amerli, a farming town of 26,000 mainly Turkoman ethnic minority residents, is the closest that the American strikes have come to Baghdad, about 113 miles north of the Iraqi capital.
The American raids have “damaged or destroyed” 88 of what the Pentagon called “armed vehicles” belonging to the Islamic State, plus 37 Humvees, 21 other vehicles, 12 armored personnel carriers, two tanks, a construction vehicle and a mine-resistant vehicle called an MRAP.
The Pentagon also detailed the Islamic State weapons systems damaged or destroyed, including seven anti-aircraft artillery, seven roadside bombs, five mortar positions, a machine gun station and a weapons cache.
The airstrikes have damaged or destroyed 12 fighting positions held by Islamic State fighters, 10 of their checkpoints, two observation posts, two buildings, a command post, a bunker and what the Pentagon described as “a large ground unit.”
With support from Britain, Canada, Australia and France, U.S. military planes have conducted two humanitarian operations in Iraq, the Pentagon said.
During the siege of Mount Sinjar, the American planes performed 28 airdrops of 115,000 meals, 35,000 gallons of water and other supplies to the trapped Yazidis.
Near Amerli, U.S. aircraft conducted four airdrops of 7,000 meals and 10,500 gallons of water to Shiite Turkomen under attack by Islamic State forces.