President Barack Obama's decision to send warplanes back to Iraq, three years after pulling the last US troops out of the country, marked a potential turning point in the two-month-old conflict.

After the first day of US air raids on Islamic State (IS) fighters who had moved within striking distance of Kurdistan, a top official in the autonomous region said the time had come for a fight back.

‘Following the US strikes, the peshmerga will

  1. First regroup
  2. Then re-deploy in areas they retreated from
  3. Third help the displaced return to their homes,’

Fuad Hussein told reporters on Friday in the Kurdish capital Arbil.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who has boycotted cabinet meetings for weeks as relations soured with Baghdad, said that failing to arm the Kurdish peshmerga forces had been a costly mistake.

He said the American air strikes had stopped the rot on the ground and allowed the federal and Kurdish authorities to unite behind the common cause of defeating the IS jihadists.

‘The Iraqi army and the peshmerga are fighting side-by-side in the same trenches now,’ he said.

Iraq's military chief of staff, Babaker Zebari, said on Friday that the US advisers, peshmerga and federal top brass were "selecting targets" together.

The first US bombings struck one convoy of vehicles carrying IS militants west of Arbil.

A White House spokesman said on Friday the strikes would be ‘very limited in scope’, but Babaker Zebari said he thought US air support would extend to other areas.

He said the intervention would allow joint action to reclaim large tracts of land lost to the Sunni extremists since they launched their devastating offensive on June 9, exactly two months ago.

The Pentagon also said late on Friday that cargo planes escorted by combat jets made a second air drop of food and water to ‘thousands of Iraqi citizens’ threatened by the jihadists on Mount Sinjar.

 Obama justified the strikes on Thursday by the threat to US personnel in Kurdistan and the need to avert a genocide against Sinjar's Yazidi community.

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