The Pentagon says armed U.S. drones are in the skies over Baghdad, protecting American forces deploying there to assess the security situation amid a Sunni insurgency.
Unarmed reconnaissance drones have been flying 30 to 35 sorties per day for the past week or so.
The decision to begin arming some of the unmanned planes "is primarily for force protection reasons now that we have introduced into the country some military advisers whose objective will be to operate outside the confines of the embassy," the Defense Department's press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, told a Pentagon news conference.
The Associated Press reports:
"So far, 180 of 300 troops promised by Obama have arrived in the country. That's 90 advisers and 90 who are setting up an operations and intelligence analysis unit.
"A handful of Predators armed with Hellfire missiles are being used over the capital for the new force protection mission, a senior defense official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the new flights on the record and requested anonymity."