For the fourth day in a row, a base housing US troops in Iraq came under fire. The US-led coalition in Iraq shot down a drone that was heading towards the Ain al-Asad airbase, which is located to the west of Baghdad.
US troops in Syria have also come under attack in recent days. On Wednesday, rockets were fired at the Green Village base in eastern Syria, which the US responded to by firing artillery at the area the US says the attacks were launched from.
There have been no casualties reported, but the incidents in Iraq and Syria mark a significant uptick in attacks on US forces in the region. The attacks came after the US formally changed its role in Iraq from a combat mission to an advisory one.
The change in roles was an attempt to placate elements in Iraq that want the US to leave. December 31st was supposed to be a withdrawal deadline for all combat troops, but instead, all 2,500 US troops that were in the country are still there and are now calling themselves advisors.
Some of Iraq’s Shia militias threatened to take action against the US if troops remained past the withdrawal deadline, although at this point is not clear who’s responsible for the attacks. In the past, the US has launched major airstrikes in Iraq and eastern Syria against Shia groups in response to similar rocket and drone attacks.
Since ISIS no longer holds significant territory in the region, the US presence in Iraq and Syria does little but creates a tripwire for further conflict. The Syrian government and Iraq’s Shia group that the US opposes are both effective fighting forces against ISIS and would be able to deal with the remnants if the US got out of the way.