A senior US State Department official has pleaded with Iraqi resistance groups to “just leave us alone” following a surge in attacks against American bases and forces in the Arab country.
“I understand that some of these militias completely disagree with what the United States is trying to do in Iraq in fighting ISIS (Daesh), but we’re asking them, we’re demanding, that they just leave us alone and we’ll leave them alone, so that we can fight this common enemy, which is ISIS,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State Joey Hood said in an interview with Al Arabiya.
The emergence of Daesh in Iraq in 2014 was facilitated by the chaos resulting from the US-led military intervention, but the United States has used the fight against the terror organization as an excuse to extend its military presence in the oil-rich country.
Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by their Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, have been leading a double fight against both Daesh and the occupation forces.
Hood claimed that the United States was not directly engaged in an “open war” with the resistance groups, and said the recurring attacks “serve no one’s interest.”
Late last month, the Pentagon said it had conducted airstrikes against three targets belonging to Iraqi resistance groups along the country’s common border with Syria.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said at the time that President Joe Biden had ordered the “precision strikes” because the positions were allegedly being used by groups “that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi condemned the airstrike and said the escalation represented a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and national security, according to his office.
Hashd al-Sha’abi also condemned the attack, which killed four of its fighters, and vowed to continue fighting the US occupation forces until they leave the country.
In January 2020, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a bill demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces from the country. The move came two days after the United States assassinated Iran’s top anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units in a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport.
Days later, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) targeted Ain al-Asad, a sprawling airbase in western Iraq that houses American troops, with a barrage of missiles in retaliation. Since then, Ain al-Asad and other US bases in the region have come under repeated drone and rocket attacks.
Most recently, Ain al-Asad and a military base run by American troops at the al-Omar Oilfield in eastern Syria were targeted in simultaneous rocket attacks on Wednesday.
A resistance group called Revenge of al-Muhandis Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack on Ain al-Assad, and vowed to end the “brutal occupation” of US forces.
The group said it struck the base with 30 BM-21 Grad rockets, and that the projectiles had hit their targets accurately.