Troops at the Iraqi air base that bore the brunt of Iran’s first direct missile attack against US forces said they were shocked by its intensity and grateful to emerge unscathed.
The scale of the damage at the Ain al-Assad base showed Iran’s destructive capability at a time when US officials say they are still concerned that Iran-backed groups across the region could wage attacks on the United States.
“It’s miraculous no one was hurt,” Lt Col Staci Coleman, the US air force officer who runs the airfield, told reporters on Monday at the vast base deep in the western Anbar desert in Iraq, where 1,500 Americans were deployed.
“Who thinks they’re going to have ballistic missiles launched at them ... and suffer no casualties?”
The January 8 attack came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should expect retaliation over the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq the previous week.
The killing raised fears of a new Middle East war, but the United States, Iraq, and other countries with troops at the base said no one was hurt. US military leaders have said that was thanks to commanders on the ground, not Tehran’s goodwill.
At one site, a cruise missile had left a large crater and incinerated living quarters made from shipping containers.
Heavy concrete blast walls were knocked over and the shipping containers were smashed and charred along with contents including bicycles, chairs and other furniture. Several soldiers said one of their number had come very close to being blown up inside a shelter behind the blast walls.
Almost a dozen missiles hit the air base, where US forces carried out “scatter plans” to move soldiers and equipment to a range of fortified areas apart from one another.
The United States did not have Patriot air defenses at the base, putting the onus on local commanders to protect their troops.
“We’d got notification there could be an attack a few hours prior so had moved equipment,” said US Staff Sergeant Tommie Caldwell.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر