U.S. and coalition troops fighting the anti-ISIS campaign in Iraq have a new process for getting flights approved daily, following an Aug. 15 order from that country’s prime minister that all use of Iraqi airspace would have to be pre-approved or else be considered hostile.
Emergency flights receive blanket approval, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve told Military Times earlier this month, but further details are now available on the pre-approval process for planned air missions.
Iraqi leadership now reviews a daily air tasking order with more detailed information about types of the missions, aircraft and operating areas for each flight, said a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.
Those include pre-planned strike, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, resupply and transit flights inside restricted zones.
“The process we have in place does not increase the risk of compromise for our operations,” OIR spokesman Army Col. Myles Caggins III told Military Times on Friday.
For situations where troops are in contact and needing close air support, medical evacuation or other aviation back-up, the U.S. and members of the coalition do not have to seek pre-approval for life-and-death situations.
“We continue to coordinate closely with Iraqis on our mission to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh,” Caggins said, referring to the Arabic term for ISIS. “That mission has not changed. The support we provide from the air through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, strike, and other capabilities has been a key part of our efforts to enable the Iraqi Security Forces.”
The new procedures come after a series of explosions at weapons storage facilities around Iraq, which some have blamed on Israel, claiming they are targeting Iran-backed militias operating in Iraq.
Following an explosion outside Baghdad Aug. 12, which sent mortars shooting into the surrounding area and injured 13, Iraq cracked down on unauthorized use of its airspace and threatened to shoot down any non-compliant aircraft.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also ordered these storage facilities moved away from populated areas, in case of further explosions.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.