The Pentagon has sent three warships into the Persian Gulf to provide US President Barack Obama with options should he decide to launch airstrikes against al-Qaeda-linked militants in Iraq
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the USS George H.W. Bush, which carries dozens of fighter jets, to move into the Persian Gulf on Saturday.
The 103,000-ton warship is accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, which carry a large number of Tomahawk missiles, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The ships were due to arrive in the Persian Gulf late on Saturday.
“The order will provide the Commander-in-Chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
On Friday, Obama said , “We will not be sending US troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq’s security forces.”
On June 10, the militants from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took control of Nineveh province, including its provincial capital Mosul, in a lightning advance, which was followed by the fall of Tikrit, located 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of the capital Baghdad.
Rights groups say around half a million people have been uprooted in and around Mosul.
The ISIL militants have vowed to continue their offensive towards Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that the country’s security forces would confront the terrorists, calling Mosul seizure a “conspiracy.”
He has blamed Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the security crisis and growing terrorism in his country, denouncing Riyadh as a major supporter of global terrorism.
Earlier on Saturday, Iraqi forces recaptured a number of towns in Salah al-Din and Diyala provinces.