WASHINGTON - The US military carried out two unilateral air strikes in Iraq in June that did not involve Iraqi forces, both of them in self-defense to prevent attacks, the main US military spokesman in Iraq said on Tuesday.
The air strikes are another sign of how the United States is being forced to sometimes respond directly to militant threats a year after it formally ended its combat mission in Iraq and just months before the scheduled withdrawal of all of its troops.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned during a trip to Iraq last month that the United States would take unilateral action when necessary to deal with Iran-backed militants who made June the deadliest month for US forces in Iraq since 2008.
Still, US officials have appeared reluctant recently to detail unilateral operations, something Major General Jeffrey Buchanan did to an extent during a briefing with reporters. He stressed that US forces had a right to self-defense under the security pact with Iraq that expires at the end of this year.