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Pentagon: U.S. strike on Syrian compound killed one fighter, wounded two more

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, shown last month, announced casualty figures on March 1 from a strike in Syria.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, shown last month, announced casualty figures on March 1 from a strike in Syria. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The Department of Defense has assessed that the U.S. military strike last week on a facility in Syria used by Iranian-backed militias led to the death of one fighter and wounded two others, in addition to destroying nine buildings.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby announced the casualty figures at a briefing Monday, some four days after the Biden administration launched the attack on a border-crossing station in eastern Syria that the U.S. military said had been used by Iranian-linked Iraqi militias that have been pressuring American forces in Iraq.

The military’s strike was the first lethal operation ordered by the Biden administration against Iranian proxy forces in the Middle East and came in response to a Feb. 15 rocket attack on a facility housing U.S. forces in northern Iraq that killed a civilian contractor and injured several others, including a U.S. service member.

U.S. officials said the border crossing station had been used by an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq that U.S., Kurdish and Iraqi officials have determined was responsible for last month’s attack.

The Biden administration’s strike was seen largely as a symbolic tit for tat. Asked at Monday’s briefing about comments by the targeted militants that the attack represented nothing more than a “pinprick,” Kirby said the operation had accomplished its intentions. “This was really designed to do two things: to remove that compound from their utilization of it as an entry control point from Syria into Iraq, and two, to send a very strong signal that we are not going to tolerate attacks on our people and on our Iraqi partners,” Kirby said.

The United States has roughly 2,500 troops in Iraq to train and assist the government as it grapples with a volatile security situation. Shiite militias backed by Iran have emerged as a powerful force in Iraq and pose a challenge to U.S. and other Western troops operating in the country.

The Biden administration has said it wants to reengage in diplomacy with Iran, having agreed to European-led talks about the future of the 2015 nuclear accord. The United States withdrew from the pact under President Donald Trump.

But Iran’s Foreign Ministry, while not rejecting the meeting outright, issued a statement Sunday saying it “does not deem the time suitable” for a sit-down.