What the al Asad and Irbil bases are, and why they are important
By JARED GILMOUR | McClatchy Washington Bureau | Published: January 8, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Iran launched surface-to-surface missiles early Wednesday local time, targeting a pair of military installations in Iraq that house American troops in retaliation for the United States' targeted killing of an Iranian general.
The attacks targeted an installation in Irbil and the Al Asad air base, U.S. officials confirmed on Tuesday. But what are the bases, and why are they important?
The al Asad air base, located in the western Anbar province of Iraq, "was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria," the Associated Press reported.
The New York Times reported that the Asad base has "long been a hub for American military operations in western Iraq," including in the leadup to efforts against the Islamic State, while the Irbil base "has been a Special Operations hub, home to hundreds of troops, logistics personnel, and intelligence specialists."
The Irbil base is in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, according to AP.
"We are aware of the reports of attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq," said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, according to ABC News. "The president has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team."
The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed the attack on al Asad in a statement, adding that Iran "targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at al Asad and Irbil."
"It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran," Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, said in the statement. "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. These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region."
Trump flew into the Al Asad air base in 2018 when he made a surprise visit to U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East, USA Today reported.