Two military bases attacked by at least a dozen Iranian missiles late Tuesday have hosted President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the past year or so, and Trump appeared to refer to one of them this week when he threatened Iraq with sanctions if it tried to expel U.S. troops.
The Pentagon confirmed missile strikes on the al Asad Airbase in western Iraq and a base in Irbil in northern Iraq.
“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil,” said Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman. “We are working on initial battle damage assessments.”
Tensions between the United States and Iran increased sharply after the killing of Soleimani in an airstrike ordered by Trump on Thursday.
Iran vowed to retaliate, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday retaliation would come directly from Iranian forces, rather than proxies.
Both bases host U.S. and coalition forces assigned to fighting the Islamic State. The United States has about 5,000 soldiers in Iraq.
Al Asad Airbase, located west of Baghdad in Anbar Province, is the site of Camp Flores, where Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence served Thanksgiving dinner to U.S. service members last year.
The base was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
Pence also visited Irbil Airbase, located in Iraqi Kurdistan. He addressed troops and discussed the fight against the Islamic State.
“With your courageous service here at Irbil Air Base, you’ve taken the fight to radical Islamic terrorism on our terms, on their soil,” Pence said at the time.
Happy Thanksgiving from Iraq. @SecondLady and I are so honored to be with our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines here in Iraq! We are so proud of you and thankful for you all! pic.twitter.com/bzcM1fGgiG
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to al Asad Airbase just after Christmas 2018.
Trump spent about three hours on the ground in Iraq, meeting with soldiers in a dining hall and addressing a large group of troops in a hangar. Speaking about the fight against the Islamic State, he said, “We’ve knocked them out. We’ve knocked them silly.”
Sunday, as outrage built over Soleimani’s killing, Trump appeared to refer to al Asad Airbase when he threatened sanctions on Iraq if the U.S. were forced to leave the country.
“We’ve spent a lot of money in Iraq,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned to Washington after spending the holidays at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. “We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. … We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”
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