US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has raised concerns about the increased risk of attacks on American forces in the Middle East amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. He warned that Iran and its allies in the region may exploit the turmoil created by the conflict to target US troops. Bases housing American soldiers in Iraq and Syria have already experienced rocket and drone attacks in recent days.
In an interview with ABC News, Austin stated that there is a significant possibility of further escalation in attacks on US troops and personnel throughout the region. In response, the Pentagon is taking necessary measures to ensure the protection of its troops and the ability to respond effectively.
Following Hamas’ surprise attacks against Israel on October 7, the Pentagon deployed two aircraft carriers, five guided missile destroyers, and other ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea. One of the strike groups, led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, was redirected to the Persian Gulf on Saturday. Additionally, the Pentagon activated additional missile batteries in undisclosed locations to enhance the defense of US forces in the region.
Austin emphasized that this additional deployment sends a message to those trying to widen the conflict. He urged any group or country seeking to take advantage of the situation not to do so, warning that the US maintains the right to defend itself and will not hesitate to take appropriate action.
The USS Carney destroyer, stationed in the Red Sea, intercepted three missiles and multiple drones launched from Yemen, which is controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The missiles were heading north and potentially posed a threat to targets in Israel. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken supported Austin’s concerns and acknowledged the expectation of further attacks on American troops by Iranian-backed groups.
Blinken stated that steps are being taken to effectively defend US personnel and respond decisively if necessary. However, he emphasized that the US does not seek escalation or the development of additional fronts. Despite the readiness to respond, the priority remains to prevent US forces and personnel from coming under fire.
As a result of the security threats, the US State Department ordered the departure of all non-emergency government staff and their families from Iraq. Similar orders were issued for the US embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil. The department’s travel advisory for Iraq has been updated to warn American citizens about the security risks and the limited capacity of US diplomatic installations to provide support.
In summary, the US Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State have expressed concerns about the increased risk of attacks on American forces in the Middle East. They have emphasized the need to protect US troops, respond appropriately, and prevent the widening of the conflict. The US State Department has issued travel advisories and ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel and their families from Iraq due to the heightened security threats.