The Department of Defence (DoD) has authorized the immediate deployment of a paratrooper battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East.
The deployment of the roughly 750 paratroopers comes in response to the increased truculence of Iranian-backed protestors and militias in Iraq.
“At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq,” said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a written statement.
Earlier this week, the Kata’ib Hezbollah, a Shia paramilitary group and Iranian proxy, attacked the American base in Kirkuk with rockets. A civilian contractor was killed and several warfighters were injured in the attack. In response to the attack, Central Command (CENTCOM) conducted targeted strikes in several Kata’ib Hezbollah facilities. The targeted strikes hit five locations (three located in Iraq and two in Syria) and resulted in the death of approximately 20 terrorists and the wounding of dozens.
Footage recorded by a #USArmy's General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV shows the 100 #US Marines from SPMAFTF-CR-CC 19.2 disembarking their three MV-22Bs from #USMC's VMM-161 at #Baghdad before moving to the #USEmbassy in the #GreenZone. pic.twitter.com/h78K73Rzaj
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) January 1, 2020
Assistant to the Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that Kata’ib Hezbollah “has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition against the Islamic Stare] coalition forces. The OIR coalition is in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS and provide advice and assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces.”
The retaliatory strikes incited violent protests outside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The scenes outside the besieged building brought back memories from the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the terrorist attacks in the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
The 82nd Airborne paratroopers will be further reinforced by approximately 4,000 troops in the following weeks. Around 100 Marines have already reinforced the security team at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
An abrupt end to the New Year’s Eve festivities.
“Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days. This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world,” added Secretary Esper.
Iran shrewdly uses its Iraqi militias to incite violence and destabilize Iraq. Since October, Iranian-backed militias have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds and the wounding of thousands of young Iraqis who are protesting against corruption in the country.