On Thursday, the United States launched airstrikes in Syria, targeting the facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said that the strikes were retaliation for the rocket attack that happened earlier this month in Iraq that left one civilian contractor killed and wounded a U.S. service member, and also other coalition troops.
The airstrike was the first military action that was undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its initial weeks had emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges that were posed by China, even as Mideast threats continue. Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not, however, signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the reporters flying with him that he is confident in the target that they went after, and knows what they have hit. Speaking shortly after the airstrikes he added that they are confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militants that had conducted the strikes, and referred to a February 15 attack in Northern Iraq that had killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition personnel.
Austin stated that he had recommended the action to Biden and added that they have said several times that they shall respond to their timeline. They wanted to be sure of the connectivity and also that they had the right targets.
Previously, Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby had said that the U.S. action was a proportionate military response that was taken together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners.
Kirby said that the operation sends an unambiguous message stating that President Biden shall act to protect the American and coalition personnel, and at the same time they have acted in a deliberate manner that reportedly aims to deescalate the overall situation.
Kirby added that the U.S. airstrikes had destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by several Iranian-backed militant groups including Kataib Hezbollah and KataibSayyidal-Shuhada. The U.S. has blamed Kataib Hezbollah for the numerous attacks that targeted the U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq in the past.
The Biden administration condemned the February 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run area, but as has been recently indicated that they had not determined for certain who had carried it out. The officials have noted that the Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for the numerous rocket attacks that had targeted the U.S. personnel or the facilities in Iraq.
Kirby said that presently, they are not being able to give anyone a certain attribution as to who was behind the attack and what groups were responsible. He is currently not digging deeper into the tactical details of the weaponry being used there. He is waiting for the investigation to end, post which he shall conclude.