US troops thwart drone attack in Iraq, the first in months

U.S. troops on Monday shot down two drones outside a base in Iraq, the first time American forces have been targeted by Iranian-backed proxies in the region since February, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.

“On April 22, Iran malign militia groups conducted two unsuccessful attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria,” press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters, adding that these are the first attacks on facilities hosting U.S. service members since Feb. 4.

Ryder said the U.S. has called in the Iraqi government “to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria against attacks from these groups.”

Should such incidents continue, Ryder said, “We will not hesitate to defend our forces as we have done in the past.”

The two one-way drones targeted Al-Asad air base in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, multiple outlets have reported.

Monday’s episode also comes a day after rockets were fired from northern Iraq toward U.S. forces stationed in Rumalyn in northeastern Syria on Sunday, Ryder said.

A coalition aircraft destroyed the rocket system that was firing at the base, which Ryder on Monday described as an act of “self-defense” and a “failed rocket attack.”

The U.S. military, however, has not categorized the rocket firings as an attack, as it is unknown if it was specifically targeting U.S. forces.

“As I understand it, in this particular case, you had a truck with rockets on it that was shooting rockets all over the place, some type of malfunction,” Ryder said.

U.S. forces had experienced a lull in attacks in the Middle East since early February, when Washington launched retaliatory airstrikes against 85 targets in Iraq and Syria tied to Iranian-funded militias and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Before that, U.S. forces in the region endured near-daily rocket and drone strikes since mid-October, after American ally Israel began a brutal air campaign against the Hamas militia group in the Gaza Strip.

About 2,500 U.S. troops are currently based in Iraq, while another 900 are in Syria to advise and train partner forces and conduct counterterrorism operations against lingering Islamic State pockets in the countries.

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