Iran-backed forces firing at US troops in the Middle East
As the U.S. military sends more troops to the CENTCOM area, defense officials say there’s a “significant threat” of attacks on American service members.
As Israeli forces prepare for a major incursion into Gaza, the U.S. military sees a “significant threat of escalation throughout the region,” including “towards U.S. forces,” an official said Monday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this weekend sent the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, to join the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group.
The military is also deploying additional air and missile defense systems, including a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery and additional Patriot battalions, in response to increased missile and drone attacks, from Iranian-equipped Houthi forces in Yemen, as well as attacks from Syria and Iraq. Some of those attacks were aimed at U.S. forces.
“We've seen rocket and UAV attacks against bases housing U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria,” a senior defense official said, adding that while the U.S. is not attributing the attacks directly to Iran, the country has “armed, equipped, and trained militias and proxy forces all across the region.”
Charles Lister, a senior fellow and the director of the Syria and countering terrorism & extremism programs at the Middle East Institute, said on X (formerly Twitter) that an Iranian-backed militia group called the Islamic Resistance of Iraq has taken credit for strikes on U.S. forces Monday morning.
The Defense Department on Saturday ordered additional troops to be ready to assist, mostly for command and control, the official said: “That would give the secretary as well as the Central Command commander options for various missions, you know, for forces that are already postured there. So that additional force structure is largely command and control.”
The military already deployed additional aircraft to support ground combat operations, the official said: “There's been a relatively significant increase in the number of land based fighter and A-10 aircraft in CENTCOM [area of responsibility], so that has already occurred.”
Said a senior Defense Department official during that same briefing: “Our advice to those who might seek to exploit the situation or amplify the conflict is simple: Don't. We retain the right to defend ourselves, and we'll act decisively when required.”