U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have been attacked with drones or rockets at least 24 times in recent days, including at least three attacks on Monday, according to U.S. defense officials.
At least five of these attacks were launched after U.S. forces struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated groups during the early morning hours of Friday. None of the attacks carried out since the U.S. retaliatory strikes on Friday have caused casualties or damage, according to defense officials.
The latest attack on Monday used multiple rockets to target al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, a defense official told VOA on condition of anonymity due to security sensitivities. Other multi-rocket attacks were launched against forces at Green Village and Mission Support Site Euphrates in Syria.
On Sunday, a one-way attack drone was used against U.S. forces at a base near al-Shaddadi in northeastern Syria, and on Thursday another one-way attack drone targeted U.S. and coalition forces at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, according to U.S. officials.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder and other officials have blamed Iranian-backed proxies for the near daily attacks on U.S. forces.
“We know that these are Iranian-backed militia groups that are supported by Iran and, of course, we hold Iran responsible for these groups,” Ryder said last week.
Asked by VOA on Monday whether the recent attacks are a sign that U.S. deterrence is not working, a senior defense official replied, “Iran’s objective for a long time has been to force a withdrawal of the U.S. military from the region. What I would observe is that we’re still there.”
One American F-15 and two American F-16 fighter jets used precision munitions against a weapons storage facility and an ammunition facility near Abu Kamal early Friday local time, according to defense officials. The Pentagon assesses the strikes successfully hit their targets, and it is still looking into casualty numbers.
“These precision self-defense strikes are a response to a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups that began on October 17,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement on October 26.
“The United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” he added.
Officials have raised concerns about the prospect of “more significant escalation” in the region from Iranian proxy groups.
“Spillover into Syria is not just a risk; it has already begun,” Geir Pedersen, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, told the U.N. Security Council on Monday via videoconference.
The attacks since October 17 on U.S. and coalition forces have resulted in 17 minor injuries to Americans in Syria and four minor injuries to American personnel in Iraq, with U.S. officials continuing to monitor any potential traumatic brain injuries.
One U.S. contractor at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering in place during a false alarm for an air attack and later died. At least 19 attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria occurred between October 17 and October 26, according to the Pentagon.
US increasing protection in region
Approximately 900 troops have either deployed or are in process of deploying from the United States to the Middle East to increase force protection. These units include a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, battery from Fort Bliss, Patriot batteries from Fort Sill, and Patriot and Avenger batteries from Fort Liberty.
These moves come after Austin had placed more than 2,000 military personnel on heightened alert with a prepare-to-deploy order earlier this month. Margaret Besheer contributed to this report from the United Nations.