US Officials Raise Threat Level for Troops Stationed in Iraq
By Staff, Agencies
Leadership with the US’ Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve reportedly raised the threat level for American service members in Iraq on Friday over concerns that a response to the US airstrikes could be imminent.
Citing two sources familiar with the changes, Fox News reported that officials also placed American contractors stationed at the Balad Air Base on high alert, requiring all individuals on base to be fitted with protective gear when outside of “hardened” buildings.
Additionally, only “mission-essential” movement will be allowed at the base between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time.
Although the recent changes may reportedly last for a period of several days, sources stated the move was a “routine precaution” in light of the current events. A source told the outlet that the “protection of coalition troops is the #1 priority, so taking force protection levels higher is wise and prudent.”
Earlier Friday, the US War Department stood firm in its decision to launch the strikes, with Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby telling reporters that the launch sent a “very clear signal that the US is going to protect its people, it’s going to protect its interests and it’s going to protect its partners.”
"It was very much a defensive operation," Kirby said, "as well as to send a strong signal about our resolve."
Kirby’s remarks were later echoed by US President Joe Biden, who told reporters that the strikes effectively informed Iran that “you can’t act with impunity,” and that Tehran must “be careful” with its choices.
Iran has condemned the US airstrikes and referred to the “aggressive attack” as a “violation of international law.” Saeed Khatibzadeh, the spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, noted in a statement that the Thursday strikes violated both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, and will only work to further destabilize the region.
The airstrikes are believed to have completely destroyed nine buildings and partially damaged two other facilities. As assessments are ongoing, an official death toll has not yet been confirmed.