File photo taken on July 11, 2014 shows U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at a press briefing at the Pentagon, Washington D.C., capital of the United States. The U.S. military said Friday it has launched targeted airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in north Iraq by dropping two laser-guided bombs on their mobile artillery. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. military has launched targeted airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in northern Iraq, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.
At about 6:45 a.m. EDT (1045 GMT) Friday, two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Kirby said, adding that ISIL was using it to shell Kurdish forces defending the city, where U.S. personnel are located.
The decision to strike was made by Army General Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, under authorization granted him by President Barack Obama, he said.
"As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities," he added.
"The mission really is to protect American personnel in Erbil and potentially even in and around Baghdad. And this is an important point -- to try to help Iraqi security forces as they go after this threat," Kirby said.
"This is a threat inside their country, to their people, to their sovereignty, and ultimately this is an Iraqi fight to fight," the spokesman said.
"For our part, we're committed to two things -- one is trying to relieve that humanitarian issue there on Mount Sinjar and of course being prepared and ready to conduct air strikes to protect American personnel," Kirby said.
It is a problem for the international community, which has also responded with some humanitarian assistance, he noted, adding that the U.S. army is prepared to do what Obama has authorized: providing air drops of supplies to those Iraqi citizens on Mount Sinjar, and conducing air strikes against ISIL targets "if and when required."
"Our focus is helping the Iraqis deal with this threat inside their country and in the broader region," he said.
"We have put assessment teams on the ground. We've got advisers working in two joint operation centers, one in Baghdad, one up in Erbil, and now we have these operations conducted last night," he said.