By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
U.S. forces carried out strikes in Iraq against three facilities used by Iran-backed militias south of Baghdad on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
The strikes, which the president authorized according to Austin, took place in retaliation for multiple ballistic missile and rocket attacks Iranian-backed militias launched at al-Assad Airbase in Iraq hosting U.S. troops, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, there to assist with the ongoing campaign to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), have come under attack more than 150 times since the first attack in Iraq in response to U.S. support for Israel, according to the Pentagon.
“Today, at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted necessary and proportionate strikes on three facilities used by the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group and other Iran-affiliated groups in Iraq. These precision strikes are in direct response to a series of escalatory attacks against U.S. and Coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias,” Austin said in the statement.
“I am grateful for both the skill and professionalism with which our personnel planned and conducted these strikes and the continued efforts of our troops on the ground as they work with regional partners to further dismantle and degrade ISIS,” Austin said.
Kataib Hezbollah is one of the main groups conducting the attacks, according to Pentagon statements. In December, the U.S. carried out strikes on facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Iraq in direct response to the Dec. 25 attack by Iran-affiliated Kataib Hezbollah group at Erbil Air Base in Iraq.
Tuesday’s strikes targeted headquarters, storage sites for rocket, missile, and one-way attack drones and training facilities, according to CENTCOM.
“The President and I will not hesitate to take necessary action to defend them and our interests,” Austin said in the statement, but reiterated the administration’s desire to see conflict in the region contained.
“We do not seek to escalate conflict in the region. We are fully prepared to take further measures to protect our people and our facilities. We call on these groups and their Iranian sponsors to immediately cease these attacks,” he said.
Local media reported strikes in the Jurf al-Nasr area south of Baghdad and in border areas, and video footage appeared to show the same.
The Sunday attack involved 17 ballistic missiles and rockets, and were launched from inside Iraq, according to ABC News, citing U.S. officials. U.S. troops successfully intercepted most of them, but two ballistic missiles evaded U.S. air defenses and caused damaged to “noncritical facilities,” the Pentagon said.
Initially two U.S. service members reported injuries after the expansive attacks, but the Pentagon on Tuesday revealed that a total of four service members received traumatic brain injuries and have since returned to duty, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing.