Tikrit Airstrikes Support Iraqi Troops

After a request for assistance from the Iraqi government, US and coalition aircraft conducted airstrikes in Tikrit, supporting Iraqi forces attempting to dislodge ISIS fighters from the city. Fighters, bombers, and remotely piloted aircraft carried out 17 strikes on ISIS targets in the initial wave, hitting a building held by ISIS, two bridges, three checkpoints, berms, staging areas, and a command and control facility, according to a March 26 Defense Department release. The strikes insert US and coalition forces directly into the stalled battle for Tikrit, which also features Iranian advisers, Shiite militias, and Iraqi forces, raising potential deconfliction challenges with the Iranians. However, US officials claim the Iranian-backed militias are no longer in the fight. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 26, US Central Command boss Army Gen. Lloyd Austin said some 4,000 Iraqi forces are now in the area, mostly Iraqi special forces and federal police. Shiite militia members “are [not] part of the clearing operations in Tikrit,” he added. US strikes were conditioned on the Iraqi government taking control of the operation, coordinating a scheme of maneuver with forces, and being able to establish a clear line of communication with Operation Inherent Resolve air planners, said Austin.