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The U.S. is moving military aircraft and support personnel to Kuwait as pressure mounts on the Sunni-backed government in neighboring Iraq.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Kuwait on Wednesday as the U.S. government moves to increase the number of troops in Iraq for an anticipated military assault on the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“We are committed to enhancing our military posture in the broader Middle East, and Kuwait has become an essential stepping stone to achieving that,” Hagel said of his arrival.
A senior administration official confirmed the Pentagon would deploy up to six F-16 fighter jets to support the ground mission and four AH-64 Apache helicopters to air refuel troops.
It was not clear if the aircraft would be deployed to Kuwait, which has been a long-time ally of the U.S. with U.S. military bases.
Hagel arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait following a visit to Washington last week that reportedly included talks with U.S. military officials about a further escalation of U.S. military operations in Iraq.
Hagel’s visit came as Iraq’s government said the situation in Iraq must be stabilized or it risks being overrun and overrun again by the militants.
Iraq has been hit by a sustained campaign by U.S. and other airstrikes, with about 20,000 civilians killed and more than 400,000 forced to flee since President Obama came into office in 2009.
The Iraqis believe the militants are trying to create a Sunni Caliphate in the Middle East and the U.S. response has been to launch a sustained air campaign to support the government against them.
Some have accused the military of acting too passively, and also too indiscriminately, against civilians in an attempt to create a de facto no-fly zone. Last week’s airstrike on a police training camp, which killed at least 42 people, was also criticized as being ineffective.
“The only thing you want to do as a commander is to get to the ground, to get your people out of harm’s way, and that’s exactly what
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