The U.S. military conducted airstrikes in Iraq on Thursday in retaliation for a recent rocket attack that killed two American service members and one British service member and wounded 14 others, in keeping with two U.S. officials, one in every of whom characterized the strikes as defensive in nature.
it had been unclear what targets were being struck by U.S. military aircraft, but earlier within the day, senior Pentagon officials had blamed Iranian-backed Shia militia groups for Wednesday’s attack on Camp Taji in Iraq.
“Yesterday’s attack by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups consisted of multiple indirect fires that originated form a stationary platform and was clearly targeting coalition and partner forces on Camp Taji,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Thursday. “But let me be clear, the u. s. won’t tolerate attacks against our people our interests or our allies.”
Esper continued, “All options are on the table as we work with our partners to bring the perpetrators to justice and maintain deterrence.”
The defense secretary said President Donald Trump was presented with options that the U.S. military could soak up response to the attack, adding that the president gave him the authority he needed.
Asked on Thursday whether Iran should expected a response from the U.S., Trump replied, “I’d rather not say.”
“Let’s put it this fashion, you’ll see. i am unable to say,” Trump said. “I was functioning on that last night also. They sent lots of rockets. It hasn’t been fully determined it had been Iran.”
He added, “As you recognize, it had been a rebel group but presumably it might be backed by Iran, but we’ll see what the response is.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters that about 30 Katyusha rockets were fired with about 12-18 rockets impacting at Camp Taji. He characterized five of the 14 wounded as “urgent,” and said all of them were a combination of usa citizens, Brits and Poles — also as contractors.
Following the attack, U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces found a rocket-rigged truck some miles from Camp Taji.
“We have an honest indication supported forensics where it had been fired from, who did the firing, so on and then forth,” Milley said.
Testifying before hill on Thursday, the commander of U.S. troops within the geographic region, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, noted that “the Iranian proxy group Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) is that the only group known to own previously conducted an firing attack of this scale against U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq.”
KH was found liable for the December attack on a base in northern Iraq that killed an American contractor. That incident led the U.S. to require military retaliation against the group, winding up airstrikes on several locations in Iraq and Syria.
Tensions continued to escalate, as demonstrators attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Then on Jan. 2, the U.S. military conducted a strike on Qassem Soleimani, killing the highest Iranian general as he left Baghdad International Airport.
The U.S. said he was plotting additional attacks against U.S. personnel and interests within the region. But during a show of force, the Iranians launched over a dozen ballistic missiles at bases in Iraq, where U.S. troops were present, causing traumatic brain injuries to over 100 American service members.
Speaking about the death on Soleimani in January, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Judging from the kind and intensity of the strike, the regime certainly must now understand what we’ll do if they ever again pose risk to American lives. If Iran escalates, we’ll end it on our terms.”
On Thursday, McKenzie added that the latest attack had crossed a line.
“I would believe a line for the u. s. goes to be the death of U.S. service members or those of our partners and allies,” McKenzie said on Thursday. “So that’s a line.”