Artillery vehicle

Gunships and artillery fire back after 3 US soldiers injured in attacks in Syria

In another back-and-forth this month, the US military said it killed several militants attacking its outposts in Deir ez-Zor in northeast Syria on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Militants attacked the bases around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday when several rockets landed inside the perimeter of the Conoco Mission Support Site and near the Green Village Mission Support Site. The United States has argued that the militants were backed by Iran, a charge Tehran has denied.

One U.S. service member reported a minor injury but returned to duty, while two others are being held for evaluation for minor injuries, according to U.S. Central Command. Attack helicopters returned fire late Wednesday, killing two or three of the suspected militants and destroying some vehicles and equipment used to launch rockets, according to CENTCOM.

Thursday morning, CENTCOM confirmed that the United States also responded with another barrage of airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor, using AH-64 Apache helicopters, AC-130 gunships and M777 artillery. Four enemy fighters were reportedly killed and seven rocket launchers were destroyed.

“We will respond appropriately and proportionately to attacks on our military,” CENTCOM chief General Michael Kurilla said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity. We will take all necessary measures to defend our people.

The attacks come following a number of exchanges between US forces and allegedly Iranian-backed militias. While militants have been accustomed to targeting US forces in Syria for the past five years, the past two weeks have seen a marked increase in altercations.

The US-led Operation Inherent Resolve reported two attacks on August 15 – one at Al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria and another at Green Village in the northeast – with no casualties nor damage. The attacks involved the use of suicide rockets and drones, according to the OIR.

The OIR did not name those responsible for these attacks. But nine days later, on August 24, CENTCOM spokesman Colonel Joe Buccino announced that the United States had carried out airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor targeting infrastructure used by militants and the Syrian government. .

These airstrikes, he said, were in retaliation for the August 15 attacks.

“Today’s strikes were necessary to protect and defend American personnel,” Buccino said. “The United States has taken proportionate and deliberate steps intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of losses.”

An opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the airstrikes had killed at least six Syrian and foreign militants.

The airstrikes have angered leaders in Tehran, who have denied any links between militants in Syria and the Iranian government. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani condemned the retaliatory attacks and the presence of US forces in Syria.

US forces have been operating in Syria since 2015 to counter the rapid rise of Islamic State physical territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria. US forces remained in Syria after the collapse of the so-called IS caliphate to drive out persistent extremists, train US-backed militias and guard oil fields. But that’s not all.

“The conflict has expanded to include U.S. hostilities against Iran-backed militias supporting the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, without explicit congressional authorization or a clear military objective beyond deterring future attacks. Instead, the United States and these militia groups have turned into a cycle of ‘tick-for-tick’ strikes,” Tess Bridgeman and Brianna Rosen wrote in April for Just Security. Both served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said he expected more attacks in the near future during a press conference Aug. 24.

Sustained fighting in Syria raises questions about presidential war powers and international law in the region as militias allegedly backed by Iran, not IS, have become the main challenge for US forces in the country .

This recent spate of attacks came as the two countries continued negotiations to relaunch the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Kahl said attacks on US facilities and the JCPOA are two separate issues, and US strikes and responses would not affect negotiations.

“What last night’s strikes illustrated is that our commitment to push back against Iran’s support for terrorism, militancy and the threats they make against our people in the region or elsewhere, is not not tied to where we end up on the nuclear deal,” Kahl said at the August 24 press conference. are on different tracks.”

Zamone “Z” Perez is a staff writer for Defense News and Military Times. A proud Illinoisan, he recently graduated from Northwestern University and wrote a thesis on the NATO-led intervention in Libya in 2011.