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President Barack Obama announced Thursday night he had authorized the Pentagon to launch targeted airstrikes if needed to protect Americans from Islamic militants in northern Iraq and help Iraqi security forces protect civilians under siege, threatening to revive U.S. military involvement in the country's long sectarian war.In a televised late-night statement from the White House, Obama also said American military forces had already carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities desperately in need of food and water. The announcements reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war.Obama, who has staked much of his legacy as president on ending the Iraq war, acknowledged that the prospect of a new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans.
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