Russia flying more armed aircraft over US bases in Syria, US CENTCOM commander says
U.S. CENTCOM Commander General Michael Kurilla told senators Thursday that the Pentagon has seen an “increase recently in the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of the Russian air force.”
The U.S. military carried out several airstrikes in Syria on Thursday in response to a drone strike Iranian forces conducted earlier in the day on a coalition base that killed one American.
The Defense Department said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps crashed a UAV into a building near Hasakah in northeast Syria at approximately 1:38 p.m. local time, leaving one U.S. contractor dead. The attack also wounded five U.S. service members and another U.S. contractor.
U.S. intelligence assessed the UAV and determined it to be of Iranian origin — so President Biden authorized the military to retaliate, the Pentagon said.
“At the direction of President Biden, I authorized U.S. Central Command forces to conduct precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. “The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC.”
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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, speaks during a briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Three service members and the U.S. contractor were medically evacuated to Coalition medical facilities in Iraq while the other two wounded service members were treated on-site.
“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Secretary Austin continued. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.”
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He added: “Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of the contractor who was killed and with those who were wounded in the attack earlier today.”
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The Pentagon said the U.S. took “proportionate and deliberate action” that limited the risk of escalation in its targeted response.
The U.S. has roughly 900 troops stationed in Syria.