Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that U.S. military strikes against sites used to injure U.S. troops in Iraq on Christmas Day were “proportionate.”
“Today, at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted necessary and proportionate strikes on three facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups in Iraq,” Austin said in a statement on Monday.
These precision strikes are a response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias, including an attack by Iran-affiliated Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups on Erbil Air Base earlier today, and intended to disrupt and degrade capabilities of the Iran-aligned militia groups directly responsible.
The attack against U.S. troops in Erbil in northern Iraq left three troops injured, including one in critical condition.
It was the first time troops have been critically injured in the recent wave of attacks in Iraq and Syria since October 17, 2023, when Iran-backed groups warned they would attack U.S. troops in response to an Israeli offensive against Hamas. Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group, attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, killing more than 1,200 and taking about 240 hostage, including Americans.
The Biden administration has attempted to separate the attacks on U.S. troops from the Israel-Hamas war, claiming that it has helped to successfully contain the conflict by sending military assets to the region.
However, here have been over 100 attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, with over 60 troops injured, including at least 19 who suffered traumatic brain injuries. The administration has claimed the injuries have been “minor.”
The Christmas Day casualties are the first that included an injury described as “critical.”
Austin said his “prayers are with the brave Americans who were injured.”
Despite the U.S. only conducting about a handful of counterstrikes in response — including one after Monday’s attack — Austin said he and President Biden “will not hesitate” to defend the United States, its troops, and its interests.
“There is no higher priority. While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities,” Austin said.