US Strike Kills 13 Al-Shabaab Fighters –  Pentagon

This undated US Air Force file photo released on June 20, 2019 shows a photo of a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.  Handout / US AIR FORCE / AFP

 

The Pentagon said Wednesday that US forces killed 13 fighters of the al-Shabaab militant group in an airstrike in Somalia.

The strike took place on August 14 near Teedaan in the central-southern part of the country while Shabaab fighters were attacking Somali National Army forces, the Pentagon’s Africa Command said in a statement.

“US forces are authorized to conduct strikes in defense of designated partner forces,” the statement said.

It said that an initial assessment of the strike showed that no civilians were injured or killed.

READ ALSOEgypt Judge Sentenced To Death For Wife’s Murder

Last week US forces killed four Shabaab members in a strike in the same region.

Al-Shabaab, which the United States labels a terrorist group, has led an insurrection against Somalia’s federal government for 15 years.

The group controls swathes of the countryside and frequently strikes civilian and military targets.

In May, President Joe Biden ordered the re-establishment of a US troop presence in Somalia to help local authorities combat Al-Shabaab, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw most US forces.

AFP

US Announces $1bn In New Arms Aid For Ukraine

In this file photo, US President Joe Biden (C) talks to service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Alliance’s Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022.  Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

The Pentagon announced Monday $1 billion in fresh military aid for Ukraine, including additional precision missiles for the Himars system that have helped Kyiv’s forces attack Russian troops far behind the front lines.

The package also includes more surface-to-air missiles for defense against Russian aircraft and rockets, more Javelin anti-armor rockets, and other ammunition, according to a statement from the US Department of Defense.

“These are all critical capabilities to help the Ukrainians repel the Russian offensive in the east, and also to address evolving developments in the south and elsewhere,” said Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl.

It took to $9.1 billion the amount of security assistance the United States has provided Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

READ ALSOChina’s Largest-Ever Taiwan Military Drills Draw To A Close

“The United States stands with allies and partners from more than 50 countries in providing vital security assistance to support Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russia’s aggression,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine and surge additional available systems and capabilities, carefully calibrated to make a difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s eventual position at the negotiating table,” Blinken said in a statement.

Separately, the World Bank announced Monday $4.5 billion in aid for Ukraine paid for by the United States.

The funds will help Kyiv pay for services and pensions, key to easing economic impacts of the Russian invasion, the bank said in a statement.

“This economic assistance is critical in supporting the Ukrainian people as they defend their democracy against Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

AFP

US Believes Ukraine Can Beat Russia With ‘Right Equipment’

A car drives past a burnt Russian tank on a road west of Kyiv, on April 7, 2022, during Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. Genya SAVILOV / AFP
In this file photo, a car drives past a burnt Russian tank on a road west of Kyiv, on April 7, 2022, during Russia’s military invasion launched on Ukraine. Genya SAVILOV / AFP

 

The United States believes Ukraine can win the war against Russia if it has the “right equipment”, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Monday, as Kyiv accused Russia of failing to reach a deal to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol. 

The landmark visit by Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Ukraine comes as the war entered its third month, with thousands killed and millions displaced by the fighting.

The bloody conflict has triggered an outburst of support from Western nations that has seen a deluge of weapons pour into Ukraine to help beat back the Russian invaders.

“The first step in winning is believing that you can win. And so they believe that we can win,” Austin told a group of journalists after he and Blinken met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“We believe that we can win, they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support.”

RELATED: Russia Slaps Travel Ban On Kamala Harris, Zuckerberg

The meeting between the two sides lasted three hours and was “very productive and detailed”, according to a Pentagon spokesman, adding that Zelensky was also briefed on an upcoming security summit in Germany on Tuesday among Western allies.

Following the talks, Austin said the US hoped the Russian military would be exhausted in Ukraine, preventing it from launching further invasions.

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” said Austin.

For months, Zelensky has been begging for heavy weapons — including artillery and fighter jets — from Western countries, vowing his forces could turn the tide of the war with more firepower.

The calls appear to be resonating, with a host of NATO countries pledging in recent days to provide a range of heavy weapons and equipment to Ukraine, despite protests from Moscow.

The US has been a leading donor of finance and weaponry to Ukraine and a key sponsor of sanctions targeting Russia, but had not yet sent any top officials to Kyiv, while several European leaders have travelled there to underscore their support.

“Many countries are going to come forward and provide additional munitions and howitzers. So we’re going to push as hard as we can, as quickly as we can, to get them what they need,” Austin later said in reference to Tuesday’s summit in Germany.

Austin and Blinken also said US diplomats will begin a gradual return to Ukraine this week and announced $700 million (653 million euros) in additional military aid.

Ceasefire

US President Joe Biden (C) talks to service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Alliance’s Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022.
Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP
US President Joe Biden (C) talks to service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Alliance’s Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022.  Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

 

The highly sensitive trip by two of President Joe Biden’s top cabinet members came as fighting continued across swathes of Ukraine, casting a long shadow over Easter celebrations in the largely Orthodox country.

In the wake of the talks in Kyiv, Russia’s defence ministry announced a ceasefire around the sprawling Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, following calls over the weekend to pause fighting to allow civilians to leave the area.

Ukraine says hundreds of its forces and civilians are holed up inside Azovstal, and Kyiv has repeatedly called for a ceasefire to allow civilians to safely exit the shattered city.

Russian troops “from 14:00 Moscow time (1100 GMT) on April 25, 2022, will unilaterally stop any hostilities, withdraw units to a safe distance and ensure the withdrawal of” civilians, the defence ministry said in a statement.

It said the civilians will be taken “in any direction they have chosen” and added that the Ukrainian side should show “readiness” to start the humanitarian evacuations “by raising white flags” at Azovstal.

Hours later, Ukraine countered the announcement, saying Moscow had not agreed to its request for a humanitarian corridor to let wounded soldiers and civilians leave Azovstal.

“Unfortunately, there are no agreements on humanitarian corridors from Azovstal today,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vershchuk said on Telegram.

“It is important to understand that the humanitarian corridor is opened by agreement of both parties. The corridor announced unilaterally does not provide security, and therefore, in fact, is not a humanitarian corridor,” Vershchuk added.

The ceasefire debacle comes a day after Kyiv said it had invited Moscow to hold talks near the steel plant, after an attempt to evacuate civilians over the weekend was thwarted by Russian forces, according to Ukrainian officials.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces not to assault the plant, but the Ukrainians say that attacks from the land, sea and air continue to rain down on the steel works unabated.

‘Pause to save lives’ 

In this file photo, a man takes a picture of the wreckage of a tank next to destroyed residential houses in the village of Zalissya, northeast of Kyiv on April 19, 2022. Genya SAVILOV / AFP

 

“The lives of tens of thousands, including women, children and older people, are at stake in Mariupol,” Awad said in a statement.

“We need a pause in fighting right now to save lives.”

A video posted by the far-right Azov Regiment, whose fighters are based in Azovstal, showed war-weary women and children sheltering in the plant’s underground bunkers, pleading for relief.

“There are 600 people here. No water, no food. What are we going to do here? How long will we stay here?” asked one woman.

“We haven’t been out for two months now. I don’t even know what the weather is like there. It feels like it’s still February 28,” said another woman.

Mariupol, which the Kremlin claims to have “liberated”, is pivotal to Russia’s war plans to forge a land bridge to Russian-occupied Crimea — and possibly beyond, as far as Moldova.

The latest fighting followed an announcement last week from a senior Russian military officer, who said Moscow aimed to take full control over the eastern Donbas region and southern Ukraine.

AFP

Ukraine Receives Fighter Planes, Parts To Bolster Air Force – Pentagon

US President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian war in Ukraine at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland on March 26, 2022. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo, US President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian war in Ukraine at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland on March 26, 2022. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Ukraine has received fighter planes and aircraft parts to bolster its air force in the face of Russia’s invasion, the Pentagon said Tuesday, declining to specify the number of aircraft or their origin.

The announcement comes a week after US President Joe Biden unveiled an $800 million military aid package for Kyiv, including heavier equipment such as howitzers, as fighting escalates in eastern Ukraine.

The moves indicate a change in attitude in the West, which had initially refused to provide Ukraine with heavy armaments to avoid action Russia could consider direct involvement in the conflict.

READ ALSO: US Readying New $800m Military Aid For Ukraine

Ukrainian forces “right now have available to them more fixed-wing fighter aircraft than they did two weeks ago,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

“Without getting into what other nations are providing, they (Ukrainian forces) have received additional platforms and parts to be able to increase their fleet size,” he said.

Kirby did not specify the type of aircraft delivered to the Ukrainian military, which had been pleading for warplanes for weeks, but suggested that they were Russian-made.

“Other nations who have experience with those kinds of aircraft have been able to help them get more aircraft up and running,” Kirby said.

He underscored that while the United States had helped with the shipment of some parts, it had “not transported whole aircraft.”

Kyiv has asked its Western partners to provide MiG-29 fighter jets that its pilots already know how to fly, and which a handful of Eastern European countries have.

A possible transfer of such aircraft from Poland was discussed in early March, before the United States poured cold water on the plan, fearing Russia would see it as direct engagement by NATO in the war.

 More Aid 

The United States and the European Union announced Tuesday they would continue sending aid to Ukraine.

Biden met via video call with the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Romania, Poland, Italy, Canada, Japan and the European Commission.

They reached a “broad consensus on the need to increase pressure on the Kremlin,” the Italian government said.

In particular, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to “ongoing provision of security, economic, and humanitarian assistance,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Speaking on his visit this month to Kyiv, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “underscored the critical need for further military support to Ukraine in the face of a major Russian offensive in the Donbas and ongoing attacks elsewhere,” Downing Street said.

The first shipments of the latest US military aid package have already arrived at Ukraine’s borders, with US media reporting Tuesday that Washington was already working to approve another $800 million package for Kyiv.

NATO soldiers are slated to train their Ukrainian counterparts to use the newly delivered howitzers.

While the handling of US howitzers is not fundamentally different to that of the howitzers the Ukrainian military has already used, those Washington has sent use 155-millimeter shells — common in NATO countries — while Ukraine still uses Russian-made 152-millimeter shells.

Russia has formally complained to the United States over its military aid to Ukraine, warning of “unpredictable consequences” if shipments of advanced weaponry go forward, US media reported last week.

AFP

Two-Thirds Of Russian Troops Have Left Kyiv –  Pentagon

Russia Confirmed the Withdrawal Of Some Of Its Troops from The Ukrainian Border On Tuesday , February 15th 2022
In this file photo, Russian soldiers of the guard of honour attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin Wall in Moscow, on February 15, 2022.  MAXIM SHEMETOV / POOL / AFP

 

Russia has removed about two-thirds of the troops it had around Kyiv, mostly sent back to Belarus with plans to redeploy elsewhere in Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said Monday.

“They have about a third left of the forces that they had arrayed against Kyiv,” the official said on grounds of anonymity.

“We do begin to see them consolidating in Belarus. What we continue to believe is that they’re going to be refit, resupplied, perhaps maybe even reinforced with additional manpower, and then sent back into Ukraine to continue fighting elsewhere,” the official said.

READ ALSO: Zelensky Accuses Russia Of ‘Genocide’, Biden Calls For War Crimes Trial

The redeployment comes after Ukraine forces delivered a strong pushback against the Russians, who invaded Ukraine on February 24 with the apparent intent of quickly capturing Kyiv, the capital, and replacing the government.

Western military analysts have called the failed Kyiv siege a significant defeat for the Russians, but Moscow has suggested it wants to focus its military efforts on the country’s southeast Donbas region, where they have joined hands with pro-Russia secessionist forces.

The Pentagon official said the withdrawn troops had not yet shown signs of moving to Donbas. “We haven’t seen them begin to move,” the official said.

Nevertheless, the official said, the Pentagon believes that the Russians are now going to “become more aggressive” in the Donbas region.

The official did not deny reports that Western allies of Ukraine are planning to supply it with tanks made in the former Soviet Union to continue their counterattack on Russian forces.

“We continue to discuss and talk with allies and partners about security assistance for Ukraine,” the official said.

“But these decisions about what a nation provides to Ukraine are national decisions that they have to make for themselves.”

Nine weeks into the war, Washington has stressed that it was only providing “defensive” arms to Ukraine, like precision weapons to destroy Russian armored vehicles.

Some 14 other countries are providing what are generally more offensive-use weapons, the official said.

AFP

US Strike That Killed 10 Afghan Civilians Did Not Violate Law Of War –  Pentagon Probe

This handout photo courtesy of the US Air Force shows US Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load passengers aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Afghanistan, August 24, 2021. (Photo by Donald R. ALLEN / US AIR FORCE / AFP)

 

A US drone strike in Kabul in August that killed 10 Afghan civilians was a tragic mistake but did not violate any laws, a Pentagon inspector general said Wednesday after an investigation.

Three adults, including a man who worked for a US aid group, and seven children were killed in the August 29 operation, with the target believed to have been a home and a vehicle occupied by Islamic State militants.

“The investigation found no violation of law, including the Law of War. Execution errors combined with confirmation bias and communication breakdowns led to regrettable civilian casualties,” Lieutenant General Sami Said, the inspector general for the US Air Force, said in a report.

“It was an honest mistake,” Said told reporters at the Pentagon.

“But it’s not criminal conduct, random conduct, negligence,” he said.

Said said the people directly involved in the strike, which took place during the US-led evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans after the Taliban seized control of the country, genuinely believed “that they were targeting an imminent strike.”

“The intended target of the strike, the vehicle, its contents and occupant, were genuinely assessed at the time as an imminent threat to US forces and mission at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the report said.

READ ALSO: China Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal Faster Than Anticipated – Pentagon

However, it said, the interpretation of intelligence and the observations of a targeted car and its occupants over eight hours was “regrettably inaccurate,” it said.

“What likely broke down was not the intelligence but the correlation of that intelligence to a specific house,” Said explained.

The US military believed it was targeting IS militants planning an attack on the evacuation operations, three days after a suicide bomb attack at the airport left 13 US service members and scores of Afghans dead.

The car was thought to have contained explosives like those used in the previous attack.

After a preliminary investigation, the Pentagon admitted on September 17 that it had been a “tragic mistake.”

The Pentagon said that the surviving family members would be compensated.

Said said that there was not one point of failure or a person to be blamed for the error. He also said it was not in his responsibilities to decide whether someone should be punished for the error.

AFP

China Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal Faster Than Anticipated –  Pentagon

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China's Foreign Minister at the opening session of US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021. Frederic J. BROWN / POOL / AFP
File photo: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China’s Foreign Minister at the opening session of US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021. Frederic J. BROWN / POOL / AFP

 

China is expanding its nuclear arsenal much more quickly than anticipated, narrowing the gap with the United States, the Pentagon said in a report published Wednesday.

READ ALSO: US Strike That Killed 10 Afghan Civilians Did Not Violate Law Of War –  Pentagon Probe

China could have 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027, and could top 1,000 by 2030 — an arsenal two-and-a-half times bigger than what the Pentagon predicted only a year ago, the report says.

AFP

Pentagon Scraps $10 Billion Cloud Contract Amid Amazon-Microsoft Rift

This file photo taken on December 26, 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. STAFF / AFP
This file photo taken on December 26, 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. STAFF / AFP

 

The Pentagon said Tuesday it scrapped a massive $10 billion cloud computing contract, sidestepping a bitter dispute between Amazon and Microsoft over allegations of political bias that swayed the bidding.

A Defense Department statement said the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract was canceled because it no longer meets current needs and that it would start a process for a new “multi-cloud/multi-vendor” computing contract.

Microsoft in late 2019 won the contract, sparking a challenge by Amazon on grounds that vengeful politics by former president Donald Trump may have improperly influenced the outcome.

Officials said that instead of going forward with the deal in the face of litigation, the government would start over with the aim of getting the most up-to-date technology.

“JEDI, conceived with noble intent, was developed at a time when the department’s needs were different,” Defense Department spokesman John Sherman said during a press briefing.

“Now, we want to leverage multiple cloud environments.”

Sherman equated arming US “war fighters” with cutting-edge, 21st century cloud computing capabilities to providing top armor or weaponry, saying the technology landscape has shifted since the JEDI contract was stalled by litigation.

A statement said the Pentagon would seek proposals from Amazon and Microsoft on a new contract, noting that the two vendors appear at the moment to be the only cloud service providers capable of meeting the department’s requirements.

Staying on mission

The 10-year JEDI program was designed see all military branches sharing information in a cloud-based system boosted by artificial intelligence.

Amazon alleged it was shut out of the deal because of former president Donald Trump’s vendetta against the company and its chief executive Jeff Bezos.

Sherman maintained that it was urgent to move ahead and that “the overriding factor is not what may have happened in previous administrations; what was said or not said, the litigation.”

Amazon had been considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with Amazon Web Services dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government agencies including the CIA.

Amazon argued in court documents that the Pentagon’s choice of Microsoft was mystifying if not for Trump’s repeated “expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon.'”

US defense officials will reach out to Amazon and Microsoft to solicit bids for parts of the new cloud contract, which Sherman said will have an overall value in the billions, without specifying an amount.

‘Difficult choice’

Microsoft president of US regulated industries Toni Townes-Whitley said in a post that the technology giant “respects and accepts” the decision.

“The DoD faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward,” Townes-Whitley said in a post.

“What matters now is the way forward, as the DoD has a critical unmet need to bring the power of cloud and AI to our men and women in uniform, modernizing technology infrastructure and platform services technology.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon and Microsoft have already been deemed capable of meeting defense department needs for the new cloud initiative. Defense officials planned to also reach out to Google, Oracle, IBM and other computing titans to assess whether they are will and able to enter the bidding for some of the jobs.

The department aimed to begin awarding contracts early next year with a hope of having systems starting to deploy by 2025.

Microsoft will be able to submit a bill to the government for terminating the JEDI contract, the amount of which has not been determined, according to Sherman.

AFP

One Militant Killed In US Bombing In Iraq – Pentagon

Iraqi Flag

 

The US Defense Department said Monday that one member of a pro-Iran militia was killed and two were injured in last week’s bombing of a border station inside Syria.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby made no mention of possible civilian casualties, but said than nine buildings were destroyed in the pinpoint strike on the outpost near Albu Kamal.

The US military said was used by Iran-supported Iraqi armed groups.

“We believe right now there was likely one militia member killed and two militia members wounded,” Kirby said.

“We’ll continue to assess … and if that changes we will certainly let you know,” he added.

Shortly after the early Friday attack, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 22 fighters from Iraq’s state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force were killed.

READ ALSO: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Hit With Two New Criminal Charges

The strike was in retaliation for three recent missile attacks on installations used by US and coalition forces in Iraq.

Those were believed launched by Iran-backed militias that operate under the umbrella of Hashed al-Shaabi.

It was the first military strike by the administration of Joe Biden in the region and came as Biden seeks to resume negotiations with Tehran over limiting its nuclear program.

Iraqi map.

 

Biden was “sending an unambiguous message that he’s going to act to protect Americans,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said they were confident the target was being used by “the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes” in Iraq against US-used facilities.

The administration has stressed that the action was meant as a warning and to avoid further escalation of tensions between Tehran and Washington.

“This was really designed to do two things: to remove that compound from their utilization of it as an entry control point from Syria into Iraq,” Kirby said.

“And, two, to send a very strong signal that we’re not going to tolerate attacks on our people and our Iraqi partners.”

AFP

Pentagon Awards Glaxo $342m Contract For COVID Vaccines

Covid-19- vaccine
In this file photo taken on July 10, 2020 A photo shows vaccines in prefilled, single-use syringes before the inspection and packaging phase at the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi’s world distribution centre in Val de Reuil, France.  JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

The Pentagon on Thursday announced a $342 million contract has been awarded to British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to deliver “mass quantities of COVID-19 vaccines” to US troops.

It said GSK was the only company to make a bid for the contract, which will consist of supporting “military locations and personnel throughout the continental US and outside the continental US.”

The work will be carried out in North Carolina “with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2021,” the Pentagon said.

The US Army will supervise execution of the project.

AFP

Over 100 US Troops Suffered Brain Injury In Iran Attack – Pentagon

FILE PHOTO of US Troops.

 

More than 100 US troops sustained “mild” traumatic brain injury, far more than originally announced when Iran launched missiles at their base in Iraq last month, the Department of Defense said Monday.

“As of today, 109 US service members have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, an increase of 45 since the previous report,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Of them, 76 have returned to duty while most of the rest are still undergoing evaluation and treatment.

President Donald Trump had initially said that no Americans were injured in the strike on the Ain al-Asad base in western Iraq on the night of January 7-8, although authorities later reported that 11 troops were injured.

Iran fired ballistic missiles at the base to retaliate for the January 3 US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani while he was in Baghdad.

Trump was understood to downplay the impact on US troops to help ratchet down tensions between the two countries, amid concerns that a full war could break out.

It was only a week later that reports surfaced that US troops had experienced concussions and other brain injuries.

But the US leader then dismissed the reported injuries as “headaches” and “not very serious.”

“We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 per cent of those diagnosed to return to duty,” said Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah in a statement Monday.

“We must continue to address physical and mental health together,” she said.

AFP

Iran Fired ‘More Than A Dozen’ Missiles At US Forces In Iraq, Says Pentagon

The Pentagon is seen as snow falls on January 7, 2020 in Washington, DC Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

Iran fired “more than a dozen” ballistic missiles Tuesday against two airbases in Iraq where US and coalition forces are based, the Pentagon said.

“At approximately 5.30 pm (2230 GMT) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties at the bases.

The attacks came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to “respond” to a US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

The White House said in a separate statement that President Donald Trump was “monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”

Local security sources told AFP earlier that at least nine rockets had slammed into the Ain al-Asad airbase, the largest of the Iraqi military compounds where foreign troops are based.

Iran claimed responsibility, with state TV saying the Islamic republic had launched missiles on the base.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network, was killed in the US drone strike alongside Soleiman, seen as the “godfather” of Tehran’s proxy network across the region.

Hoffman said the Pentagon was working on initial battle damage assessments following Tuesday’s airbase attacks.

“In recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners,” he added.

“These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region.”

Hoffman added that the US would take “all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said the US “must ensure the safety of our service members, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence.”

“America and world cannot afford war,” she added.

Her Democratic House colleague Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN however the attacks “could very well” mean that the US was at war.

“The president and his crew had better figure out a way to… tone down everything because we could be in the middle of a full-fledged war, and I don’t think that is something anybody wants,” he said.