U.S. Troops Come Under Rocket Fire at Iraqi Military Bases; No Casualties Reported

Three military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria were attacked Wednesday, with the Iraqi bases reportedly enduring rocket fire that officials said caused no casualties, according to the Associated Press.

The bases remain in Iraq's western Anbar province and Baghdad as Iran-backed militias continue to call for the exit of all American forces from Iraq, threatening more attacks until their demand is met.

The attacks are likely motivated by a combination of continuing animosity over U.S. forces remaining in the country and the Monday anniversary of the airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad two years ago, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

An unknown group calling itself Qassem al-Jabaryn took credit later Wednesday for the attack on the Ain al-Asad base, pledging more attacks until all U.S. forces are withdrawn.

Five Katyusha rockets landed inside the base, with three more landing outside the perimeter of the base, an Iraqi officer told the AP. The officer said soldiers were forced into shelter by the explosions, but no deaths were reported.

The Wednesday attacks are the third this week, as two armed drones were shot down as they were reportedly on their way to the Baghdad airport, which contains a facility currently housing U.S. advisors. On Tuesday, another two drones targeting another Iraqi base with U.S. troops in the Anbar province were downed.

Iraq, Syria, Ain al-Asad, US Military Attack
The Ain al-Asad military base housing U.S. forces in the western Iraqi province of Anbar was hit by at least five rockets Wednesday; no casualties were reported. Above, a picture taken Jan. 13, 2020, during a press tour organized by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows U.S. soldiers clearing rubble at Ain al-Asad. Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

In Syria, eight rounds of indirect fire landed inside a base with members of the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi and U.S. militaries said.

There was no immediate comment from the coalition, which is in Iraq to help fight the Islamic State group.

Since Soleimani's death, Iran-backed militias in Iraq have become increasingly unruly and disparate, although some analysts argue the militias have splintered only to allow them to claim attacks under different names to mask their involvement.

Earlier Wednesday, the Iraqi military said a rocket launcher with one rocket was located in a residential district in western Baghdad, an area used in the past by Iran-backed militias to fire at the airport.

In eastern Syria, the rounds hit a base run by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces with a small coalition advisory presence. The coalition said in a statement there was minor damage.

Coalition forces, acting on intelligence, responded by firing six rounds of artillery towards the point of origin of the attack just outside the eastern town of Mayadeen, a stronghold of Iran-backed fighters, the statement said.

The statement said "Iran-supported malign actors fired ... from within civilian infrastructure with no regard for civilian safety." It said that hours earlier, U.S.-led coalition forces had observed several launch sites near the base known as Green Village. Coalition forces conducted several strikes to eliminate the threats, it added.

"The Coalition reserves the right to defend itself and partner forces against any threat, and will continue to do everything within its power to protect those forces," said Major General John W. Brennan, Jr., commander of the joint task force.

John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said Wednesday that the military has been preparing for stepped-up attacks in Iraq around the end of the year.

"We're very mindful of the threat environment and it is very dynamic right now," he said. Kirby said the attacks could be related to the anniversary of Soleimani's killing or a reaction to the continuing presence of American forces in Iraq — but likely are a combination of both.

Iranian-backed militias have wanted all U.S. troops out of the country, and many believed that would happen by the end of the year.

The 2020 U.S. drone strike at Baghdad's airport killed Soleimani, who was the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Pro-Iran Shiite factions in Iraq have vowed revenge for the killing and have conditioned the end of attacks against the U.S. presence in Iraq on the full exit of American troops from the country.

The U.S.-led coalition formally ended its combat mission supporting Iraqi forces in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group last month. Some 2,500 troops will remain as the coalition shifts to an advisory mission to continue supporting Iraqi forces.

The top U.S. commander for the Middle East Marine General Frank McKenzie warned in an interview with the AP last month that he expects increasing attacks on U.S. and Iraqi personnel by Iranian-backed militias determined to get American forces out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.