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US Sends B-52 Bombers to Qatar to Join the Fight Against the Islamic State

The commander of US Air Forces Central Command said the long-range bombers would enable US forces to use precision targeting and “minimize civilian casualties."

by Reuters and VICE News
Apr 9 2016, 3:00pm

Photo by Christine Griffith/EPA

The US Air Force deployed B-52 bombers to Qatar on Saturday to join the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, the first time they have been based in the Middle East since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

US Air Forces Central Command said it last flew the long-range bombers operationally in the region in May 2006 as part of the war in Afghanistan, and during a US-led military exercise in Jordan in May 2015.

"The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on Daesh and defend the region in any future contingency," said Air Force Lieutenant General Charles Brown, commander of US Air Forces Central Command, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Karns, spokesman for the Central Command, said he could not provide the exact number of B-52 bombers to be based at Al Udeid Air Basein Qatar due to "operational security reasons."

Related: Rebels Ignored the Islamic State in South Syria, and It's Come Back to Haunt Them

Washington's decision to deploy its powerful B-52 bombers to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar came as the US military stepped up the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria.

Brown said the bombers would be able to deliver precision weapons and carry out a range of missions, including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, and maritime operations.

Karns said the bombers would enable US forces to drop one or two munitions in an area, rather than use carpet bombing.

"Accuracy is critically important in this war," he said. "Carpet-bombing would not be effective for the operation we're in because Daesh doesn't mass as large groups. Often, they blend into population centers. We always look to minimize civilian casualties."

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