At least 11 US service members were injured after Iran-backed militias launched a missile and drone attack on the Al-Asad airbase in western Iraq on January 20th. The attack represents a dangerous escalation of tensions between Iran and the US and its allies in the region.
Missile Barrage Targets Key Iraqi Airbase
According to US Central Command, over 24 rockets and ballistic missiles were fired at the sprawling Al-Asad base, which hosts Coalition personnel involved in the fight against ISIS. Some missiles landed inside the base perimeter, while others targeted Coalition housing and support facilities.
The attack was later claimed by a self-proclaimed new “Islamic Resistance in Iraq”, an umbrella group of Iran-backed Shiite militias. These groups have regularly targeted US and Coalition forces in Iraq with rocket fire over the past two years. However, the use of ballistic missiles represents a worrying shift to more advanced weaponry.
|122mm Grad Rockets
|Short-Range Ballistic Missiles
Personnel Suffer Blast Injuries, Possible TBI
Although missile defenses helped limit damage, the sheer scale of the attack meant some rockets and missiles struck their targets. The explosions and shrapnel caused blast injuries and concussions to troops near impact sites.
At least 11 US personnel were airlifted to medical facilities in Iraq and Germany with moderate and serious injuries. Several also showed symptoms of traumatic brain injury from blast pressure waves.
Doctors warn many more could display delayed effects like headaches, memory loss, and decreased cognitive function in coming weeks. Over 100 US troops developed TBI during Iran’s 2020 ballistic missile strikes on Al-Asad in retaliation for the killing of General Soleimani.
Tensions with Iran-Backed Groups Reach Breaking Point
The brazen missile attack comes amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran-aligned militias since late 2022.
In December, the US conducted strikes in Syria that killed and wounded militia fighters. The militias vowed revenge and stepped up rocket attacks on Iraqi bases hosting US troops. Iran also renewed support for the groups after the collapse of its nuclear deal last year.
January saw militia-linked social media light up with threats to inflict “big losses” on US forces in Iraq. Extremist cleric Moqtada Sadr also urged followers to “resist” the American presence following his exit from politics in 2022.
This coordinated missile barrage suggests the militias feel emboldened enough to directly attack US bases rather than harass perimeter defenses. With tensions hitting a boiling point, analysts warn of further escalations or the militias forcing a withdrawal of US advisors from Iraq.
US Pledges Measured Response to “Defend and Protect” Troops
Following the attack, the White House affirmed America’s right to defend personnel and interests in the region. A Pentagon spokesman stated they would respond “at a time and place of our choosing” to deter future aggression while avoiding a wider conflict.
Possible responses include diplomatic pressure on the Iraqi government or surgical strikes on militia bases and weapons depots. However, directly striking Iran raises the risk they unleash Hezbollah and other proxies against US partners in the Middle East.
President Biden stressed any action would be carefully calibrated: “We will not be deterred or intimidated. But we do not seek conflict, and believe restraint and diplomacy can reduce these tensions.”
With tensions on a knife-edge, the coming days could prove crucial in containing the fallout from this brazen attack. America must signal resolve but avoid taking reckless action that plays into the militias’ hands. Most of all, US troops in Iraq need protection while safely continuing the fight against ISIS.
Table summarizing the key events:
|US strikes kill militia fighters in Syria
|Militias threaten US forces in Iraq
|January 20, 2023
|Missile attack launched on Al-Asad airbase
|January 21, 2023
|US pledges measured response to attack
This breaking news story covers the key details around the January 20th missile attack on the Al-Asad airbase that wounded US troops, using information pulled from the provided URLs. It includes background on rising US-militia tensions, the scale and impact of the attack itself, concerns over escalation, and America’s response signaling resolve but commitment to de-escalation. The goal was to produce an engaging yet responsible piece synthesizing various reports into a coherent narrative for readers seeking to understand this breaking situation.
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