Statement by Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper as Prepared

Last Friday, the Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Hizbollah or KH launched yet another attack against American forces in Iraq, resulting in the death of one American civilian, and injuries to four American service members, as well as two of our partners in the Iraqi Security Forces. This continues a string of attacks against bases with U.S. forces and Iraqi Security Forces. KH has a strong linkage to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and has received lethal aid, support, and direction from Iran.

Over the last couple of months Iranian-backed Shia militias have repeatedly attacked bases hosting American forces in Iraq. These attacks have injured our partners in the Iraqi Security Forces, but fortunately Americans were not casualties of these attacks until last week. On November 9th, Iranian-backed Shia militias fired rockets at Q-West Air Base located in North-West Iraq. On December 3rd, they conducted a rocket attack against Al Asad Air Base, and on December 5th, they launched rockets against Balad Air Base. Finally, on December 9th, these same militia groups fired rockets at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center located on the Baghdad International Airport. It is clear that these attacks are being directed by the Iranian regime, specifically IRGC leadership.

In response, U.S. leaders have repeatedly warned the Iranians and their Shia militia proxies against further provocative actions. At the same time, we have urged the Iraqi government to take all necessary steps to protect American forces in their country. I personally have spoken to Iraqi leadership multiple times over recent months, urging them to do more.

After the attack last Friday, at the direction of the President, U.S. forces launched defensive strikes against KH forces in Iraq and Syria. These attacks were aimed at reducing KH’s ability to launch additional attacks against U.S. personnel and to make it clear to Iran and Iranian-backed militias that the United States will not hesitate to defend our forces in the region.

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Author: Dian Welle