Pentagon: ‘All options are on the table’ after Iran-backed rocket attack kills two US troops
The Pentagon’s top leaders on Thursday confirmed that Iranian-backed militia groups were behind the rocket attack in Iraq that killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier a day earlier, saying that “all options are on the table” for a response.
“Yesterday’s attack by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups consisted of multiple indirect fires that originated from a stationary platform and was clearly targeting coalition and partnered forces on Camp Taji,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon.
“Let me be clear, the United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests or our allies,” Esper added.
“All options are on the table as we work with our partners to bring the perpetrators to justice and maintain deterrence. … We will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region,” he said.
The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq on Wednesday evening announced that 18 Katyusha rockets hit Camp Taji north of Baghdad, killing three and wounding 12. Iraqi forces found a rocket-rigged truck a few miles from the base, the coalition said.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, who spoke alongside Esper, echoed that all options are on the table and “we’re looking at everything,” as a potential response.
“You don’t get to shoot at our bases, kill and wound Americans and get away with it,” Esper said.
The Pentagon chief also said he spoke to President Trump on Wednesday about the attack and the president gave him all the authority he needs to possibly respond.
Esper replied that he’s “not going to take any option off the table right now,” when asked if a U.S. military response could include strikes on Iran.
U.S. officials previously blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a rocket attack in December that struck a base near Kirkuk, killing one U.S. contractor and wounding four U.S. troops.
That December attack set off an escalating cycle that brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war, culminating with a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Iran, in turn, followed with a missile attack on bases in Iraq that gave more than 100 U.S. troops brain injuries.