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Defense Official Says F-15s Struck Iranian-Backed Militia Facilities in Syria

Feb. 26, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

Last night's U.S. military airstrike over eastern Syria involved two F-15E Strike Eagles that dropped seven, precision-guided munitions, which totally destroyed nine facilities and partially destroyed two others, functionally destroying them, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.

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The airstrike was conducted against the infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militant groups, Kirby told reporters today. 

"The strike was authorized in response to recent attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq and to ongoing threats to those personnel. We recognize the significance of this operation as the first of its kind under the new administration" of President Joe Biden, he said.

The structures were in the city of Abu-Kamal, Syria, near a terrorist entry-control point close to the Syria-Iraq border, Kirby said, adding that the location is known to facilitate activity by Iranian-allied militia groups. 

"We have preliminary details about casualties on site, but I won't be able to discuss additional details at this time because our battle-damage assessment is ongoing," Kirby said, adding this response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners and notification to Congressional leadership before the strikes. 

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs reporters.
Press Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs reporters the Pentagon, Feb. 26, 2021.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 210226-D-BN624-0389

"As we made clear last night and, I think, through President Biden's order, he made clear that the United States will act to protect American and coalition personnel and our security interests in the region," he noted.

The purpose for striking those targets was twofold, according to Kirby: to clearly try to make an impact on the groups and their ability to conduct future attacks and to send a clear signal that the United States is going to protect its people and its interests and those of its partners in the region. 

"These targets were chosen carefully, very deliberately," Kirby said.

"This really was a defensive strike meant to help protect … American forces and coalition partners," he said.  

The United States is confident the targets were legitimate and used by groups associated with recent attacks. They were structures and housing used to help perpetrate attacks on U.S. troops and its coalition partners in Iraq, the spokesman said.

A fighter aircraft is seen on the ground against the setting sun.
Striking Sunset
An F-15E Strike Eagle, deployed to the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing, prepares for takeoff just as the sun sets in Southwest Asia, Dec. 30, 2020. The 332 AEW works around-the-clock to support Operation Inherent Resolve.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Jonathan Young, Air National Guard
VIRIN: 201230-Z-DS155-023

"We have preliminary indications of casualties on site. I'm not going to go any further than that," Kirby noted. "The Russians were contacted just prior to the strike using the deconfliction mechanism that is in place." 

"[Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III] was very sincere when he praised our Iraqi partners for the investigative and intelligence work they did," Kirby said. "There was some very good work done on the intelligence side that helped lead to these successful strikes."

The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the F-15E the capability to fight at low altitudes day or night and in all weather, according to the Air Force.