The political crisis in Iraq grew on Monday, as the country’s president moved to push controversial incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki out of office by naming Shiite politician Haider al-Abadi as his successor. Maliki seems unwilling to go, considering Iraqi Special Operations teams and tanks surrounded Baghdad’s Green Zone and were said to be receiving orders directly from Maliki.
Amid all this, the United States continued to carry out both airstrikes and airdrops over the weekend. The latest strikes acknowledged came Sunday afternoon, when U.S. fighter aircraft destroyed several vehicles in a convoy of Islamic State militants moving to attack pesh merga troops, who defend Iraq’s northern Kurdish region.
Officials with U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said Monday that the Islamic State convoy was moving to attack troops defending Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital in northern Iraq that the Obama administration wants to protect because of the presence of a U.S. consulate and military advisers.
That’s on top of a previous round of airstrikes on Sunday morning by fighter jets and armed drone aircraft, U.S. military officials said. In the first of those cases, U.S. aircraft hit an Islamic State armed truck about 2:15 a.m. that was firing on Kurdish troops on the outskirts of Irbil. Afterward, the U.S. military saw a second armed militant truck moving away from the area and struck it, too, around 2:45 a.m.
Additional strikes occurred at 3:40 a.m., 5:45 a.m. and 7:25 a.m., CENTCOM officials said. In the first, U.S. aircraft destroyed a militant mortar position and damaged a nearby militant truck. Armed vehicles were hit again the following two strikes, U.S. officials said.
The information wasn’t quite as detailed as that released by the Pentagon on Friday during the first round of strikes. In those cases, U.S. officials quickly discussed the kind of jets used (F/A-18F fighters) and where they are based (the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf). An official with CENTCOM told Checkpoint on Monday that multiple kinds of aircraft are now coming from multiple locations, including some where there are “host-nation sensitivities,” meaning the bases involved are in countries that do not necessarily want to be associated with the operations.
The airstrike examples are at the top of this post, and were released through CENTCOM’s YouTube page. Video of the air drops can be seen here:
UPDATE, Aug. 11, 11:52 a.m.: This post has been updated to reflect additional information from a CENTCOM official.