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U.S. moves pilot rescue aircraft to northern Iraq

The move is designed to shorten the response time needed to reach pilots, following the murder of Jordanian pilot by ISIS

Published: Updated:

The U.S. military has deployed aircraft and troops to northern Iraq to boost its ability to rescue downed coalition pilots, after a Jordanian airman was captured and killed by militants in Syria, a defense official said Thursday.

“We are repositioning some assets into northern Iraq,” a U.S. defense official told Agence France-Presse.

The move is designed to shorten the response time needed to reach pilots who end up in territory held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, officials said.

Search-and-rescue crews had been based in Kuwait, but officials said on Wednesday the military was reviewing where its hardware and specialists were located following the loss of the Jordanian pilot.

Officials said the move of some search-and-rescue teams and aircraft to northern Iraq did not necessarily include a redeployment of the Ospreys, an aircraft that takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane.

ISIS militants posted a grisly video Tuesday showing the Jordanian airman, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, being burned alive.
Al-Kassasbeh was captured in Syria after his plane went down while flying as part of the U.S..-led coalition against ISIS.

In remarks after the video’s release, U.S. President Barack Obama said the killing of al-Kassasbeh has made the coalition more determined to degrade and defeat ISIS.

Aides to the U.S. president said that Obama will ask Congress for new authority to use force against ISIS next week.

A House Democratic aide quoted by Reuters on Thursday said lawmakers had been told they would receive the White House request next week.

And an aide to Senator Bob Corker told Reuters the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expected Obama to send text of an authorization as soon as next week.

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said he expected Obama to seek congressional authorization for using military force against ISIS soon and also called for speeding up assistance to Jordan.

The United States plays a dominant role in the air war against ISIS, carrying out at least 80 percent of the raids, according to officials.

Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom participate in the air campaign in Iraq, which was launched on August 8.

[with AFP and Reuters]