It may come as a surprise to some Americans, but there continue to be U.S. troops deployed in harm’s way to Syria to support allied Kurdish forces and to ostensibly help guard against a resurgence by Islamic State group forces or other radical Islamist jihadist elements, while perhaps also checking Iranian influence in the region.
Some of those troops suffered minor injuries in a pair of rocket attacks on U.S.-occupied bases this week that was suspected to have been launched by an Iran-backed Syrian militia unit, which prompted retaliatory U.S. airstrikes, the Washington Examiner reported.
Precision airstrikes against Iran-backed units ordered by Biden
The rocket attacks on Wednesday on two U.S.-occupied bases may have actually been a response to prior U.S. airstrikes, per a statement Tuesday by U.S. Central Command Communication Director Col. Joe Buccino that announced U.S. airstrikes earlier that day against Iran-backed militias that had been launched on the order of President Joe Biden.
“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted precision airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor Syria today,” Buccino said Tuesday. “These precision strikes are intended to defend and protect U.S. forces from attacks like the ones on August 15 against U.S. personnel by Iran-backed groups. The U.S. strikes targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
“Today’s strikes were necessary to protect and defend U.S. personnel. The United States took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of casualties,” he continued. “The President gave the direction for these strikes pursuant to his Article II authority to protect and defend U.S. personnel by disrupting or deterring attacks by Iran-backed groups.”
“The United States does not seek conflict, but will continue to take necessary measures to protect and defend our people. U.S. forces remain in Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” Buccino added.
Minor injuries suffered in rocket attacks
Fast-forward to Wednesday and CENTCOM issued a press release to announce that additional retaliatory strikes had been launched in response to rocket attacks that hit Mission Support Site Conoco and Mission Support Site Green Village, both located in northeast Syria.
That release noted that one U.S. servicemember at the Conoco site had already returned to duty after receiving treatment for a minor injury while two others were “under evaluation” for minor injuries.
“We are closely monitoring the situation,” CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla said. “We have a total spectrum of capability to mitigate threats across the region, and we have every confidence in our ability to protect our troops and Coalition partners from attacks.”
Details on weapons systems utilized against Iran-backed militias
A separate news release Thursday by CENTCOM revealed that Wednesday’s retaliatory strikes hit “Iran-affiliated militants in the area with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, AC-130 gunships, and M777 artillery, resulting in four enemy fighters killed and seven enemy rocket launchers destroyed.”
“We will respond appropriately and proportionally to attacks on our servicemembers,” Gen. Kurilla said. “No group will strike at our troops with impunity. We will take all necessary measures to defend our people.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, U.S. troops were first deployed to Syria in 2014 to combat the Islamic State group and have remained ever since, with approximately 900 such troops on the ground in that war-torn country.