The United States conducted airstrikes against Iran-linked groups in Syria after a deadly drone attack near a coalition base in northeastern Syria killed a U.S. contractor and wounded five U.S. service members and another U.S. contractor.
At the direction of President Joe Biden, U.S. Central Command forces responded to the March 23 drone attack (and several follow up attacks by Iran-backed forces) with precision strikes against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. At a press briefing in Ottawa, President Biden sent a clear message: “Make no mistake. The United States does not — does not, I emphasize — seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people.”
Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the precision strikes by Central Command forces “were intended to protect and defend U.S. personnel, and the U.S. took proportionate and deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.”
During his March 23 testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, which occurred before the most recent attacks on U.S. forces and facilities, General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, said Iranian-backed forces have attacked American troops in Syria and Iraq 78 times since the beginning of 2021. “The Iranian regime now holds the largest and most capable unmanned aerial vehicle force in the region," he told Congress. "What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies," General Kurilla said. "That's either UAVs or rockets to be able to attack our forces in either Iraq or Syria."
The United States has approximately 900 U.S. troops in Syria, whose mission is to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. “Unfortunately, what you see in this situation are these Iranian-backed groups – not only in Syria but conducting operations in the Strait of Hormuz, in the Gulf, in Iraq - conducting destabilizing operations that are meant to export terror and instability,” said Brigadier General Ryder.
“The United States and our coalition and our partners and allies…are focused on trying to ensure stability, security in these regions, and that will continue to be our focus. We do not seek a wider conflict,” he declared. “That said, if our people are threatened, we will continue to respond appropriately and proportionately.”