On January 4, the second air attack hit a military base hosting U.S. troops in Iraq in two days. At night, two kamikaze drones targeted the Ayn Al-Assad airbase located in al-Anbar Governorate.
The drones targeted the missiles depot, but were intercepted by the U.S. C-RAM (counter rocket, artillery, and mortar) system. No damage or injuries were reported.
None of the groups operating in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.
Ayn al-Assad is one of the largest US military bases in Iraq with an area of 10 km. square kilometers. It was involved in the operation which resulted in assassination of Iran’s Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units.
A year ago, on January 8, 2020, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps launched from 10 to 22 Fateh-313 and long-range missiles such as the Intifada at the US airbase of Ayn al-Assad. The operation called “Shahid Suleimani” was a response to the Soleimani’s assassination. LINK, LINK, LINK
As a result of the attack, U.S. facilities and equipment, such as helicopters and the helicopter maintenance unit, were completely destroyed as well as the Command Center.
The number of casualties has not been officially reveled so far.
Forces of the U.S.-led coalition are very cautious now, as the deadline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq expired on December 31.
In January 2020, the Iraqi Council of Representatives adopted a non-binding measure to expel all foreign troops from the Iraqi territory.
According to the U.S.-led international coalition, the transfer of its military bases to Iraqi security forces was due to the successful developments in their mission against ISIS but not to the increasing number of attacks that had targeted U.S. positions.
From the beginning of 2020, the US-led coalition announced the withdrawal of its forces from the following military bases, which were transferred to the Iraqi security forces:
- The US-led coalition said it had handed over the Camp Taji to Iraqi forces on September 23, 2020;
- The US-led coalition said it had handed over the Qayyara air base to Iraqi forces on March 26, 2020;
- The US-led coalition said it had handed over the K1 military base to Iraqi forces on March 29, 2020;
- The U.S.-led coalition said it had handed over the Taqaddum Airbase to Iraqi forces on April 4, 2020.
The transfer of the military bases permitted the U.S. to consolidate its forces in a few large military bases that were still under its control, such as Ayn Al-Assad Airbase or Camp Victory.
The U.S. formally ended its combat operations in Iraq. However, the foreign military remains in the country as part of the training and support missions.
As for the Ayn al-Assad airbase, Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool has recently claimed that it was under the control of the Iraqi Army. According to open sources, the Iraqi 7th Division is currently deployed there. Foreign military forces were reportedly evacuated from many of the headquarters at the base, only advisory forces have remained at some headquarters which are used to deliver logistical equipment to Iraqi forces, including weapons, vehicles, and equipment to assist Iraqi forces.
In December 2021, a senior Iraqi security official in al-Anbar stated, “per the outcome of the fourth round of talks held at the end of July between Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and US President Joe Biden, operations in the Ayn al-Asad and Harir airbases will continue as part of support and training mission. Any plans to close or evacuate Ayn al-Asad are virtually non-existent. The airbase is an essential anchor for air support, information analysis, and providing the Iraqi forces with necessary and important briefings in the war against ISIS remnants.”
The exact number of the remaining forces was not revealed by the Iraqi authorities nor by the U.S. military officials.
“Coalition forces at Ayn al-Asad airbase are advisory only. They are in charge of training and equipping the Iraqi army forces and preparing plans for operations to eliminate ISIS in al-Anbar. There are no Coalition combat forces,” the director of al-Baghdadi District, Sharhabil al-Obaidi, told Shafaq News agency.
Pro-Iranian forces do not agree with the presence of any foreign troops in Iraq, even of the ”non-military” ones.
The Iraqi Resistance fighters promised Washington a heated battle if it does not pull out its troops from the country before the end of the year and they keep their promise.
Since the beginning of the year, the attack at Ayn al-Assad became the second one that targeted U.S. forces in Iraq.
- On January 3, positions of US forces at the Camp Victory military base located near Baghdad International Airport were also targeted by two suicide drones as part of the Operation Thaar al-Qada (Operation Revenge of the Commanders).
- On December 31, four 107 mm rockets exploded on the territory of a U.S. military base in the province of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria.
Meanwhile, late on January 2, a rocket salvo hit a Turkish military base located near the town of Zaylkan in Bashiqa district in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh. On December 27 and 31 two similar attacks targeted the base.
These attacks could be carried out by pro-Iranian forces in Iraq to honor the memory of the martyrs, but forces the Kurdistan Workers’ Party are also among the main suspects for the attacks on the Turkish base.
Traditionally, along with striking U.S. military facilities, pro-Iranian fighters continue blowing U.S. military convoys in Iraq almost on a daily basis.
Iraqi resistance groups claimed that the presence of American forces under any name in the country is equal to occupation and there is no difference between combat forces and advisers. They have carried out dozens of attacks on US-led coalition bases and supply convoys in the last few months, and an increase in their number should be expected in the coming days.