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US Troops in Iraq Threatened with More Sophisticated Weapons: NYT

Washington is grappling with a rapidly evolving threat in Iraq from the anti-US forces specialized in operating more sophisticated weaponry, including armed drones, have hit some of the most sensitive American targets in attacks that evaded U.S. defenses, according to NYT.

The paper added that at least three times in the past two months, those anti-US armed groups have used small, explosive-laden drones that divebomb and crash into their targets in late-night attacks on Iraqi bases — including those used by the C.I.A. and U.S. Special Operations units, according to American officials.

“The increased precision of the drone strikes this year marks an escalation from the more common Katyusha rocket attacks that U.S. officials have viewed more as harassment. Those attacks, launched from mobile launchers, have been aimed at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone and military bases where some 2,500 U.S. forces and thousands of American military contractors operate.”

NYT pointed out that those groups are now targeting sites, even specific aircraft hangars, where sophisticated armed MQ-9 Reaper drones and contractor-operated turboprop surveillance aircraft are stationed in an attempt to disrupt or cripple the U.S. reconnaissance capability.

“Shortly before midnight on April 14, a drone strike targeted a C.I.A. hangar inside the airport complex in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, according to three American officials familiar with the matter. No one was reported hurt in the attack, but it alarmed Pentagon and White House officials because of the covert nature of the facility and the sophistication of the strike.”

“A similar drone attack in the early morning hours of May 8 on the sprawling Ayn al-Asad air base in western Anbar Province — where the United States also operates Reaper drones — also raised concerns among American commanders about militias’ shifting tactics.”

“Three days later, another drone struck just after midnight at an airfield in Harir, north of Erbil, that is used by the military’s highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command. The explosive-laden drone crashed, causing no injuries or damage, coalition officials said, but fueled the growing worries.”

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