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Tags: attacks | military | troops

US Commander: Attacks on US Troops in Iraq on Upswing

mckenzie in uniform standing next to a lebanese flag
Gen. Frank McKenzie (Lebanese Presidency press office via AP)

By    |   Friday, 11 September 2020 11:06 AM EDT

Gen. Frank McKenzie said the number of attacks that U.S. troops stationed in Iraq are experiencing has increased from last year.

The commander of U.S. Central Command told NBC News that militia groups keep targeting U.S. military bases in Iraq and at higher frequencies.

"We have had more indirect fire attacks around and against our bases the first half of this year than we did the first half of last year," he said. "Those attacks have been higher."

Despite the increase in attacks, he noted they have not been deadly. 

"They have not been particularly lethal and that's a good thing, but they are continuing," he said, adding, “They're not hitting us."

His comments on the uptick of attacks followed an announcement that the U.S. will reduce its presence in Iraq by almost half by the end of the month. About 2,200 troops will leave the country.

A defense official told NBC News that while the frequency of the attacks has increased over 2019, the overall number of rockets in each attack has generally been lower. Last year, officials said militia groups would fire dozens of rockets in one assault. This year, the official said most attacks include only a few rockets at a time.

"We know they have very good weapon systems and they are not employing their high-end weapon systems. They're employing things like 107mm rockets and mortars, which are not as sophisticated as some of their other weapon systems they have," McKenzie said. "For whatever reason, it may be by design, we don't know, they're just not that successful at hitting anyone. And that's a blessing."

But McKenzie warned he doesn’t know "how long we can count on that continuing" of the less deadly attacks. 

He said some of the recent attacks can likely be traced back to Iran, which wants the U.S. out of Iraq.

"You wonder how much of that is directed by Iran, how much of that is by proxies on the ground that they have imperfect command and control of," McKenzie said. "The bottom line is, even if it's not directly ordered by Iran, they are using weapons that were typically provided to them by Iran at some point in the process so there's a certain moral ownership of this even if Iran is not giving them instructions to do it."

He said the U.S. "will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our forces in Iraq" when asked about how the country will respond to the ongoing attacks.

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Gen. Frank McKenzie said the number of attacks that U.S. troops stationed in Iraq are experiencing has increased from last year. The commander of U.S. Central Command told NBC News that militia groups keep targeting U.S. military bases in Iraq and at higher frequencies. "We...
attacks, military, troops
416
2020-06-11
Friday, 11 September 2020 11:06 AM
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