Drone strike in eastern Syria kills one US contractor, injures five troops: Pentagon
Published : Friday, 24 March, 2023 at 10:41 AM Count : 315
A US contractor was killed Thursday after a suspected Iranian-affiliated drone struck a facility housing US personnel in northeast Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The contractor was an American citizen, a spokesman for US Central Command confirmed. Five US service members and an additional US contractor were also wounded in the strike.
In response to the strike, President Joe Biden authorized a precision airstrike “in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in the statement.
The US, according to the Pentagon statement, “took proportionate and deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.”
“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,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.”
The commander of US Central Command, Gen. Erik Kurilla, said the US could carry out additional strikes if there were more attacks. “We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks,” Kurilla said in a statement Thursday evening.
The US maintains approximately 900 troops in Syria.
Kurilla said earlier Thursday that Iranian proxies had carried out drone attacks or rocket attacks against US forces in the Middle East 78 times since the beginning of 2021, an average of nearly one attack every 10 days.
“What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies,” Kurilla told a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier in the day. “That’s either UAVs or rockets to be able to attack our forces in either Iraq or Syria.”
Asked if such attacks were considered an act of war, Kurilla said, “They are being done by the Iranian proxies is what I would tell you.”
Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley visited US troops in Syria earlier this month, marking the first time he has visited as the top US general. Milley visited troops in northeast Syria who are there as part of the ongoing campaign to defeat ISIS, a mission the US carries out with its partners in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
But Milley’s visit also focused on the safety of US troops, his spokesman had said, and he inspected for protection measures in Syria.
Two weeks before Milley’s visit, US and coalition forces at Green Village in Syria came under rocket attack. No US or coalition troops were injured in that attack, but it underscored the threat emanating from adversaries in the region, often in the form of Iranian-backed proxies or militias.
Just two days before the rocket attack, four US troops and one working dog were injured in a helicopter raid against a senior ISIS leader in northeast Syria.