The U.S. mission in Iraq has officially transitioned from a combat mission to one of advising and supporting the Iraqi security forces. Some 2,500 U.S. forces remain in Iraq and approximately 1,000 are in Syria as part of the U.S.-led Coalition’s ongoing fight against ISIS, known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
U.S. forces remain at risk in the region, and not only from ISIS. During the first week of January, bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria were the target of a series of attacks. Among them were two explosive-laden drones directed at U.S. forces near the Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq. Base defenses destroyed both drones. In addition, the Green Village, a Syrian Democratic Forces base in northeast Syria, which hosts a small presence of American and Coalition troops, took indirect fire from within civilian infrastructure.
The attacks occurred during the days around the second anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force and was responsible for the injury and death of thousands of U.S. troops. The United States designated the Qods Force a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2019.
At a recent press briefing, Defense Department Spokesperson John Kirby said the recent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria are “very much in keeping with the kinds of attacks we’ve seen from Iran-backed militias. . .Our working level assumption is that such groups were responsible for these.”
Both Spokesperson Kirby and the Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Major General John Brennan made clear that the U.S. military can and will act in self-defense. “The Coalition reserves the right to defend itself and partner forces against any threat and will continue to do everything within its power to protect those forces,” said Major General Brennan. “Our Coalition continues to see threats against our forces in Iraq and Syria by militia groups that are backed by Iran. These attacks are a dangerous distraction from our Coalition’s shared mission to advise, assist, and enable partner forces to maintain the enduring defeat of Daesh [ISIS].”