The U.S. Air Force conducted several airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq over Christmas.
After the airstrikes, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin commented publicly in a press release, stating that the strikes were in response to “a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias, including an attack by Iran-affiliated Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups on Erbil Air Base earlier today”.
Sec. Austin also commented that three American service members were injured in the attack, with one being in critical condition.
In his press release, Austin also specified the Biden administration’s view of the current tensions in Iraq and the Middle East.
“While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities”, said Austin.
U.S. Central Command also commented on the situation with a post on X. According to their statement, the “U.S. airstrikes destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants.”
According to U.S. CENTCOM Commander General Michael Erik Kurilla, the airstrikes were meant to target those specifically responsible for the attacks on U.S. forces and to hinder their ability to carry out more attacks.
As the Israel-Palestinian conflict has intensified, attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have become routine. Iran-backed groups in Iraq have often released statements claiming responsibility for the attacks, where they voice their displeasure for America’s material support for Israel’s armed forces.
According to the Military Times, a defense official confirmed that as of December 15, there had been 102 attacks carried out against U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Syria since October.
Until the December 25 attack, it appears that injuries to soldiers were only minor.
The United States currently has about 2,000 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria, nominally to counter the threat of ISIS re-emerging. These troops mostly serve in advisory roles to the Iraqi military and the breakaway Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria.
In August, Secretary of Defense Austin commented on a planned strategic partnership between the U.S. and Iraqi militaries.