Attack on U.S. troops foiled by drone

A brazen attempted attack on a military base housing US troops in Iraq was answered with a decisive U.S. drone strike.

“US forces killed at least five Iran-backed militia members in a drone strike after the US ‘identified an imminent attack’ was likely to be launched by militia forces in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Sunday, a US official said,” according to CNN.

“A half-dozen airstrikes have been carried out by the U.S. against Iranian-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria in roughly five weeks, but this appears to be first one known to have been carried out by a drone,” Air & Space Forces Magazine reported Sunday.

“Images posted on social media of the aftermath show the remnants of a variant of a Hellfire missile amid bodies of dead fighters,” the outlet added.  “American forces in Iraq and Syria have come under attack by militia groups at least 76 times since Oct. 17, a U.S. military official said,” with the latest occurring on Sunday when US and coalition forces at Rumalyn Landing Zone, Syria were targeted by a multi-rocket attack.

“At first, the U.S. limited its strikes to Iran-backed militias in Syria, even when some of the militia attacks occurred in Iraq, to avoid roiling politics in Baghdad. But now the U.S. appears to be more willing to take action in Iraq to protect its roughly 2,500 troops in the country,” Air & Space Forces Magazine reported.

The latest drone strike targeted militants from the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba group, according to Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, the group was founded by militant leader Akram al-Kabbi.

“These defensive strikes on attack cells provide very close connection between crime and punishment which makes it very easy for the Biden administration to claim it is self defense,” Knights said.

President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have been vocal about Iraq doing more to ensure the safety of US troops.

Blinken “called on the Iraqi government to fulfill its commitments to protect all installations hosting U.S. personnel at its invitation and to pursue those responsible for attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said, according to a December 1 readout following Blinken’s call with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani.

“The Secretary and the Prime Minister discussed the conflict between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas and the need to prevent the conflict from spreading. The Secretary discussed the humanitarian situation in Gaza and our work with Iraq and other partners in the region to identify the steps that we can take now to lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace,” Miller’s statement continued.

The attacks have ramped up against U.S. warships in the area.

During a speech over the weekend, Austin said the U.S. is “working to stabilize the region” even while “Iran is raising tensions.”

“And after attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, our forces repeatedly struck facilities in Iraq and eastern Syria used by Iran’s IRGC and by militias affiliated with Iran,” he said. “We will not tolerate attacks on American personnel. And so these attacks must stop. And until they do, we will do what we need to do to protect our troops—and to impose costs on those who attack them.”

Frieda Powers

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