US dispatches armed drones over Iraq
“We have the necessary forces not only to protect our own forces, but to be prepared should the President make a decision to do something more,” a senior Pentagon official said on Friday.
“We’ve got both manned and unmanned over Iraq, and it shouldn’t surprise anybody that some of our drones have armaments.”
American officials said the drones would not be used for offensive strikes against the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“This doesn’t mean necessarily that were going to use them—the President hasn’t made a decision to use any sort of direct action—but could the armed ones be used for protection of our advisers on the ground, of course they could be,” the military official said.
“They’re also there looking for targets of opportunities. If the President decides they merit striking, sure, they’re there for that, too, but the President hasn’t made any of those decisions.”
Last Friday, Pentagon’s top spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said US drones are flying “around-the-clock coverage” over Iraq for reconnaissance purposes.
“We’re not looking at the whole country,” he said. “We’re looking at parts of the country that are obviously of greatest interest.”
Over the past days, heavy clashes have been underway between Iraqi armed forces and the ISIL militants, who have threatened to spread their acts of violence to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.