Missile Strike Targets US Base in Iraq, Prompting Retaliatory Action
Pentagon officials confirmed on Tuesday that a ballistic missile attack on Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq resulted in several U.S. service members sustaining injuries. The assault, carried out by Iranian-backed militias on Monday night, involved a close-range ballistic missile and caused minor infrastructure damage, according to Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson.
In response, the U.S. military executed an unplanned retaliatory strike, leading to the death of several Iranian-backed militia personnel. Brig. Gen. Ryder explained that a U.S. military AC-130 aircraft conducted a self-defence strike against an Iranian-backed militia vehicle and individuals involved in the attack immediately after it occurred.
The U.S. Central Command, via a tweet, reported that the AC-130 maintained visual confirmation of the individuals from the launch to the engagement. Furthermore, the U.S. conducted “precision strikes” against two facilities in Iraq early Wednesday morning, responding directly to the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces by Iran and its backed groups.
A U.S. official disclosed that the targets were an operations centre and a communications node affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah, a major Iran-backed militia in Iraq. The sites were manned at the time of the strikes, resulting in expected casualties. As of Wednesday morning, there had been no retaliatory action from Kataib Hezbollah.
Pentagon officials are still evaluating the U.S. service members injured in the attack. Notably, this incident marks the 66th attack on American-affiliated military bases in Iraq and Syria since October 17. The recent surge in attacks raises concerns globally, particularly amidst fears that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could escalate into a broader Middle East conflict.
While Iranian-backed groups have previously targeted U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria using drones and rockets, this missile attack on Al-Asad Airbase represents the first use of short-range missiles against American troops since October 17. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh emphasized this during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
Of the 66 attacks in the past month, 32 occurred in Iraq, and 34 in Syria, resulting in approximately 62 U.S. personnel injuries. These figures exclude the casualties from Monday’s attack. Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, questioned about Iran’s support for militant groups, stated that these groups in Iraq and Syria make their own decisions.
When addressing potential future actions, Singh stated that the U.S. has not ruled anything out, emphasizing the right to respond at the chosen time and place. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, last month, asserted that the United States does not seek conflict but deems the Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. forces unacceptable and in need of cessation.