CENTCOM commander admits growing attacks on US troops in Iraq, warns Iran
Iran Press TV
Sunday, 13 September 2020 2:33 AM
Commander of US military forces in the Middle East has again raised concerns about surging attacks against American installations in Iraq, linking it to Iran's vow to drive out US forces from the region but rejecting it as the reason for a major US troop reduction in the region.
"We have had more indirect fire attacks around and against our bases the first half of this year than we did the first half of last year," said commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Frank McKenzie in an interview with the US-based NBC News published on Friday. "Those attacks have been higher."
"They have not been particularly lethal and that's a good thing, but they are continuing," McKenzie stated during the interview conducted while he toured the Middle East, and when asked why the attacks have not been lethal, he claimed: "They're not hitting us."
"We know they have very good weapon systems and they are not employing their high-end weapon systems. They're employing things like 107 mm rockets and mortars, which are not as sophisticated as some of their other weapon systems they have," McKenzie further alleged.
"For whatever reason, it may be by design, we don't know, they're just not that successful at hitting anyone. And that's a blessing," claimed the American commander "I don't know how long we can count on that continuing."
The allegations were made just hours after he declared the reduction of nearly half of US forces in Iraq by the end of this month, with almost 2,200 of them leaving the war-ravaged country.
This is while a US military official was cited as saying that the frequency of attacks on American installations has increased, but the overall number of rockets in each attack is generally lower.
Blaming Iran for the persisting attacks on US forces in Iraq, he further claimed that Iranians have pursued political means to influence Baghdad government to demand the withdrawal of US forces.
Following the US terror killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, along with a number accompanying Iraqi and Iranian military officials, Iran launched missile strikes against the US-held al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, inflicting major losses, including what Washington has described as traumatic brain injuries on more than 100 American service members.
McKenzie went on to say that the US military has brought in additional defensive capabilities, such as Patriot missile defense systems, to be ready.
"We've done what we need to do to protect our forces," he claimed.
Warning Iran against US "red lines"
The top US commander in the Middle East then expressed concern that Iran could "pursue other objectives by inflicting a level of pain below what they think is the US red line."
"That's very dangerous, because I don't think they have an appreciation for where our red line would be," McKenzie claimed.
According to NBC News, the US has been moving American forces out of its bases around Iraq throughout 2020, consolidating them to a few locations, namely in Baghdad and Erbil.
The US has already left al-Qaim, Qayyarah Airfield West, K-1 near Kirkuk, al Taqqadum, and Camp Taji.
Reducing the number of bases, McKenzie said, has allowed American forces to decrease their "attack surface," or the number of possible targets.
As to whether the US will respond to these attacks, McKenzie stated, "I think the United States will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our forces in Iraq."
Tehran has time and again asserted that it stands ready to defend its interests in the region.
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