U.S. forces in no danger during Iranian missile strikes into Syria
American forces supporting local troops battling the Islamic State in Syria were in no danger from Monday’s Iranian missile strikes targeting the terror group’s strongholds in the eastern part of the country.
Officials are still conducting their post-strike investigation into the fallout from the six ballistic missiles launched by Iranian units into the eastern Syrian city of Albu Kamal, Army Col. Sean Ryan, a coalition spokesman, said Tuesday.
Indigenous forces, including elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces the group of Arab and Kurdish paramilitaries battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in the country may have been in close proximity to the targets struck by Iranian missiles, no American military advisers were put in harms way, Col. Ryan told reporters at the Pentagon.
He did note Tehran’s decision to take unilateral action inside Syria and not to notify American or Russian forces of the operation until it was underway presented an overall danger to all forces in the country.
“Firing any missile through uncoordinated airspace is a threat,” he said during a teleconference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad. “We do not need anyone firing missiles” into an already extremely complicated war zone as Syria, he added.
Initial news reports claimed American advisers were as close as three miles from the blast sites in Albu Kamal, which along with the eastern Syrian cities of Dashisha and Hajin are seen as the last remnants of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate, which stretched across Syria and northern Iraq during the height of its power in the Middle East.
Albu Kamal is also roughly 20 miles south of Hajin, where U.S.-backed forces are entering the third week of an ongoing offensive to clear the city of Islamic State redoubts. The push to retake Hajin is part of the third phase of the SDF’s Islamic State campaign, dubbed Operation Roundup.
Monday’s missile strikes, carried out by units from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, were focused on Islamic State strongholds reportedly housing top terrorist leaders Tehran says were responsible for a Sept. 22 attack on an IRCG military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz.
The Islamic State attack in Ahvaz, located 500 miles south of the Iranian capital, is the second against Iran by Islamic State in the past year. In June 2017, Islamic State fighters launched a pair of coordinated strikes on the Iranian parliament and the shrine dedicated to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran ended with 12 dead and 42 wounded, in the first-ever terror attack by the group in the country.