A U.S. contractor was killed and five U.S. troops and a second U.S. contractor were wounded late Thursday when a suspected Iranian-linked drone struck a coalition military base in northeastern Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The Pentagon said it carried out retaliatory airstrikes on facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“America is not seeking conflict with Iran — no, I insist — but we must be prepared to act with force to protect our people,” President Joe Biden said Friday during a visit to Canada about the attack. “That’s what happened last night.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Iranian government. Iran’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Syrian Observatory for Human RightsA London-based war monitor said US airstrikes killed eight pro-Iranian fighters in Syria.
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Two of the wounded US soldiers were treated at the base, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. Three additional service members and a U.S. contractor were evacuated to medical facilities in neighboring Iraq.
Austin said the airstrikes were in response to Thursday’s attack and a recent series of strikes targeting coalition forces in Syria.
Biden extended his “heartfelt and deepest condolences” to the family of the deceased American and wished the injured a speedy recovery. “I am grateful for the professionalism of our service members who made this response so efficient,” Biden said.
There are about 900 U.S. troops and an unknown number of U.S. military contractors in Syria, maintained to pressure the remnants of the Islamic State militant group and try to limit Iran’s influence in Syria. This is not the first time Biden has authorized strikes against pro-Iranian militias in Syria.
Biden’s first military action as president in late February 2021 ordered airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria in response to attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. Iranian proxy groups have been carrying out attacks on US troops in Syria and Iraq for years, but the pace picked up after they were killed in a US drone strike in January 2020. Iran’s top commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani, visited Baghdad with senior Iraqi security officials.
The US Congress is considering repealing bills that allowed the use of force against the Iraqi government during the Iraq war from 1991 and 2002, with its 20th anniversary on Monday. The bill is known as the Authorization of Military Force, or AUMF. Some lawmakers called on President George W. They want to repeal or renew the 2001 AUMF, which grew out of Bush’s “global war on terror” and the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan. That 2001 authorization has been extended to allow the United States to target terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan, the Philippines and beyond.
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