Two drones were shot down over an Iraqi airbase housing US troops and Iraqi and coalition forces on Sunday, the Iraqi military said in a statement
The air defense system at al-Asad Airbase, one of the largest and oldest military bases in Iraq, intercepted and shot down the drones, the statement said.
Several hours before, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC) in the Iraqi capital was attacked by one rocket round, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, Wayne Marotto, said in a tweet. “The rocket impacted near the BDSC and caused no injuries or damage. The attack is under investigation,” he added.
In another tweet, Marotto said each attack against the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq “and the coalition undermines the authority of Iraqi institutions, the rule of law and Iraqi national sovereignty.”
It is unclear who launched the drones over the base or who was behind the rocket attack at the BDSC.
Last year, Al-Asad airbase was attacked with missiles by Iran in response to a strike near Baghdad airport that killed Iran’s most powerful military commander, Qasem Soleimani.
Anbar province, where the base is located, was a hotbed of ISIS activity in western Iraq between 2014 and 2017.
The Biden administration is eyeing an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as the country’s security forces grow more capable and the threat of ISIS wanes, the two countries announced in a joint statement in April.
The US has some 2,500 troops in Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat what remains of the ISIS caliphate that previously controlled parts of Iraq and Syria.
The US consistently blames Iran-linked Iraqi factions for rocket attacks against Iraqi installations housing its personnel. On May 8, an attack by an unmanned aerial surveillance system targeted the Ain al-Asad base, but it caused no injuries. Since the start of this year, there have been 39 attacks against US interests in Iraq.
The troops have now shifted to training and advisory tasks, “thereby allowing the for the redeployment of any remaining forces from Iraq,” the joint US-Iraq statement said.
The vast majority have been bombs against logistics convoys, while 14 were rocket attacks, some of them claimed by pro-Iran factions, who seek to pressure Washington into withdrawing all their troops.
The use of drones against American interests by these factions is a relatively new tactic, although the US military has previously accused pro-Iran Iraqi groups of helping Yemen’s Houthi rebels carry out attacks using such devices against Saudi interests. Iran has denied the accusations.
For Western diplomats and high-ranking military officials in Iraq, the attacks are not only a danger to US personnel, but they also compromise the fight against ISIS, which retains sleeper cells in mountainous and desert areas. “Those attacks are a distraction,” said one such source. “The only people they are helping are jihadists because every time they attack a base where the coalition has advisors, those advisors have to stop what they are doing to concentrate on force protection.”