Department of Defense confirms rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase


Iraqi Air Force helicopters land at Ain al-Asad airbase in the Anbar province, Iraq December 29, 2019.

Thaier Al-Sudani | Reuters

The Pentagon on Wednesday confirmed that nearly a dozen rockets struck an Iraqi base hosting U.S. troops.

The initial report, tweeted by Army spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto, said 10 “indirect fire” rockets hit Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province, where some of the 2,500 U.S. forces in Iraq are based.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said no U.S service members were injured in the attack. He added that “a U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.”

The Pentagon said the Iraqi military is handling the investigation.

“Iraqi security forces are on scene and investigating. We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage. We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate,” the statement said.

The Biden administration was briefed on the attack overnight and has “reached out to field and military to assess the damage and check on personnel,” a White House official told NBC News.

Wednesday’s attack on Ain al-Asad comes on the heels of Biden’s decision to strike Iran-aligned militia targets in Syria.

Those strikes in Syria were seen as a retaliatory effort against the Feb. 15 rocket attack in Erbil. Two days later, the Biden administration had hinted at retaliation.

“It is fair to say that there will be consequences for any group responsible for this attack,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters at the time.

The skirmishes could upset what the Biden administration considers a foreign policy priority: a return to the Iranian nuclear deal reached during the Obama administration with several world powers. The agreement lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program.  

The deal has all but collapsed since the Trump administration unilaterally ditched it in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy.  

-CNBC’s Natasha Turak and Amanda Macias contributed to this report.



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