The United States has begun planning to spend billions of dollars to fight the Islamic State, one of the most violent and extreme terrorist groups in the world, including an operation to take on the nation’s air force in a new $500 million Air Force One, U.S. media reported on Wednesday.
The Obama administration, headed by President Barack Obama, has spent a decade preparing a campaign against the Islamic State, a small group of Sunni Islamists who have swept across large swaths of Iraq and Syria and sought to establish a Caliphate in the Middle East, including western Iraq and southern Syria.
The operation, called Resolute Support, is expected to involve aircraft from the United States and Britain, along with Saudi- and Arab-led coalition forces, as well as Kurdish fighters from Turkey and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, Iraqi officials told The Associated Press.
The Pentagon declined to comment when asked about how long Resolute Support might take.
The strategy hinges on the Pentagon finding new ways to fight militants who have increasingly used car bombs, land mines and suicide bombs.
Since launching its air war last September, the U.S.-led coalition has struck more than 8,200 Islamic State sites, destroyed 6,000 vehicles and destroyed nearly a quarter of the group’s oil income. But even without air strikes, the group has found ways to defend itself, including the use of snipers armed exclusively with assault rifles and RPGs.
U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, has set forth plans for the first phase of the operation in which U.S. troops might take up temporary positions at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The move is part of several efforts to boost diplomatic and other ties with a country that is at odds with the United States over its refusal to take part in the U.S.-led mission against Islamic State militants.
In the past few days, Secretary of State John Kerry has offered to mediate between Iraq and Iran to end tensions over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The U.S. military is still struggling to defeat the Islamic State, with some estimates putting the number of U.S. forces in Iraq at close to 100,000.
In Baghdad, hundreds of residents, some wearing explosive belts, were waiting outside the newly opened U.S. base to greet foreigners arriving at the entrance.
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