biden orders strike on iranian backed groups after 3 u s troops injured in iraq drone attack scaled

President Joe Biden answers a reporter’s question as he walks from Marine One upon arrival on the South Lawn of the White House, Dec. 20, 2023, in Washington. Biden ordered retaliatory strikes Monday, Dec. 25, against Iranian-backed militia groups after three U.S. servicemembers were injured in a drone attack in Northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. military to carry out retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed militia groups after three U.S. servicemembers were injured in a drone attack in Northern Iraq.

National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said one of the U.S. troops suffered critical injuries in the attack that occurred earlier Monday. The Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups, under an umbrella of Iranian-backed militants, claimed credit for the attack.

Biden, who is spending Christmas at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, was briefed on the attack. and ordered the Pentagon to prepare response options.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Biden’s national security team quickly drew up plans and presented him with options in a call and Biden directed strikes against three locations utilized by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups. The U.S. strikes were carried out at about 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday in Iraq.

“The President places no higher priority than the protection of American personnel serving in harm’s way,” Watson said. “The United States will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue.”

The latest attack on U.S. troops follows months of escalating threats and actions against American forces in the region since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the devastating war in Gaza. The U.S. has blamed Iran, which has funded and trained Hamas, for the rising violence by its network of proxy groups across the region, including attacks by Yemen’s Houthis against commercial and military vessels thorough a critical shipping choke point in the Red Sea.

The Biden administration has sought to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spiraling into a wider regional conflict that either opens up new fronts of Israeli fighting or that draws the U.S. in directly. The administration’s measured response — where not every attempt on American troops has been met with a counterattack — has drawn criticism from Republicans.

The U.S. has thousands of troops in Iraq training Iraqi forces and combating remnants of the Islamic State group, and hundreds in Syria, mostly on the counter-IS mission. They have come under dozens of attacks, though as yet none fatal, since the war began on Oct. 7, with the U.S. attributing responsibility to Iran-backed groups.

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