At Iraq’s request, the U.S. began airstrikes in Tikrit on Wednesday in support of a stalled Iraqi ground offensive to retake the city from Islamic State fighters. The bombing marked a significant expansion of the U.S. military role in Iraq.
Tikrit is deemed an important test of the ability of Iraq, with coalition support, to retake ground it ceded to the Islamic State last year. The U.S. initially did not provide air support in Tikrit because Baghdad pointedly chose instead to partner with Iran in a battle it predicted would yield a quick victory. In recent days, however, the Pentagon has called the Iraqi offensive “stalled.”
An Associated Press correspondent in Tikrit reported hearing warplanes overhead late Wednesday, followed by multiple explosions. An Iraqi commander in the city told the AP that a warehouse used to store Islamic State weapons was bombed by a U.S. plane.