The U.S. military has carried out targeted airstrikes against two facilities in eastern Syria affiliated with Iranian-backed groups. This retaliatory action comes in response to a string of recent attacks on U.S. forces in both Iraq and Syria.
In a statement issued late Thursday night, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized that the United States does not seek conflict but deems the Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. forces as unacceptable. The strikes were executed by a pair of F-16s and targeted a weapons storage area and an ammunition storage area near Abu Kamal in Syria, according to U.S. officials.
This aggressive response follows a series of incidents wherein Iranian-backed groups have employed a combination of drones and rockets to target U.S. forces. The Pentagon has reported at least 16 such attacks since October 17, with the most recent occurrence happening in Erbil, Iraq. Fortunately, the most recent attack did not result in any injuries. Nonetheless, these attacks have not been without consequences. Nineteen U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, and two others sustained minor injuries. All affected troops have since returned to their duties.
The situation was further complicated by a tragic incident at Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, where a U.S. contractor suffered a fatal cardiac arrest while sheltering in place during a false alarm, highlighting the ongoing tension and fear in the region.
This escalation in hostilities coincides with growing international concerns that the Israel-Hamas conflict may spread into a wider conflagration engulfing the entire Middle East. President Biden issued a stern warning on Wednesday, making it clear that the U.S. would take action if the attacks persisted, emphasizing that these actions were unrelated to the Israel situation.
These retaliatory strikes represent the latest in a series of actions taken by the Biden administration to deter Iranian-backed groups and Iran. Over the weekend, the Pentagon announced the deployment of additional military assets to the Middle East to bolster the protection of U.S. forces. This includes the presence of the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group and enhanced air defense systems.
Thursday’s airstrikes mark the second time this year that the Biden administration has initiated retaliatory actions against Iranian-backed militias. In March, precision airstrikes were executed in eastern Syria following an attack on a base that resulted in the death of a U.S. contractor and injuries to several U.S. service members and contractors.
Currently, there are approximately 900 U.S. troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq, all engaged in the mission to combat ISIS and maintain regional stability.
The situation in the Middle East remains highly complex, with U.S. forces actively working to safeguard their interests and protect the region from further escalation.