The United States launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups.
The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops.
The strikes, the first authorized by President Joe Biden, hit multiple targets used by the militias.
“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq.
“I’m confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters flying with him from California to Washington.
Speaking shortly after the airstrikes, he added, “We’re confident that that target was being used by the same Shia militants that conducted the strikes,” referring to a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition personnel.
Austin said he recommended the action to Biden.