An American contractor was killed and five U.S. service members were injured in a drone strike on a facility in northeast Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon said in a statement.
U.S. intelligence officials assessed that the unmanned aerial vehicle which hit the base near Hasakah was “of Iranian origin.” In response, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin authorized U.S. Central Command forces to conduct their own “precision airstrikes” Thursday night targeting facilities in Syria used by groups with links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” Austin said. “As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing. No group will strike our troops with impunity.”
Two of the injured U.S. service members were treated on site while another three required medical evacuation to Coalition medical facilities in Iraq, the Pentagon said. The contractor was also evacuated. The identity of the deceased contractor and those of the injured personnel have not been released.
The Pentagon’s statement said its airstrikes were “intended to protect and defend U.S. personnel” and that its actions were “proportionate and deliberate.”
In a separate statement, U.S. Central Command Commander General Erik Kurilla said American forces could carry out further strikes if they are attacked again. “We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks,” Kurilla said.
He added that thoughts and prayers were with the American casualties and their families. “Our troops remain in Syria to ensure the defeat of ISIS, which benefits the security and stability of not only Syria, but the entire region,” Kurilla said.
According to the Syria Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a group which documents the war in Syria, the U.S. strikes left “eight Iranian-backed militiamen dead.”
“The number of fatalities is expected to rise, as the strikes left several militiamen injured, some seriously, amid unconfirmed reports of more fatalities,” the SOHR said, adding that the strikes also caused “heavy material losses.”
Earlier on Thursday, before the strikes, Kurilla told a House Armed Services Committee hearing that Iranian proxy groups had conducted 78 drone and rocket attacks on U.S. forces across the Middle East since 2021. When asked if such strikes constituted acts of war, Kurilla said: “They are being done by the Iranian proxies is what I would tell you.”
Around 900 American troops are currently deployed in Syria, with hundreds of other U.S. contractors also working in the region. Although American forces have suffered attacks in Syria before, fatal strikes are uncommon.
Post source: TDB