President Obama has so far turned down Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s request for U.S. air strikes against the Islamic extremists taking over his country. But if Obama changes his mind, U.S. jets could be flying over Iraq in less than a day.
U.S. air bases, housing dozens of American fighters and bombers, are well within striking distance of Iraq. High-flying spy drones like the Global Hawk can just as easily fly over Iraq as Afghanistan or any other conflict zone in the region. The aircraft carrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush is a few days’ sail away, in the North Arabian Sea. And it boasts dozens more fighters on board.
That’s why a number of retired high-ranking U.S. Air Force officers, including Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who served as the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, say any strikes, if ordered, could begin almost immediately.
“If you can provide me with the appropriate intelligence we can start doing (air strikes) within 24 hours,” he told The Daily Beast. “There are a variety of means do this, whether you are talking about long-range, high-payload aircraft or smaller aircraft. With the requisite intelligence information you can start again in 24 hours.”
“No question we could strike anytime,” added a second senior retired Air Force officer, who asked not to be quoted by name. He saw no “tech or logistical” reasons why air assets couldn’t be diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq.
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