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Iran-Backed Militias Turn To Drone Attacks, Alarming U.S. Forces In Iraq

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The Washington Post

Iran-Backed Militias Turn To Drone Attacks, Alarming U.S. Forces In Iraq

By Louisa Loveluck and John Hudson
 
BAGHDAD — U.S. military officials in Iraq have grown increasingly alarmed over attacks by Iran-backed militias using drones to evade detection systems around military bases and diplomatic facilities.

In place of rockets, militiamen have turned at times to small, fixed-wing drones that fly too low to be picked up by defensive systems, military officials and diplomats say. An official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq.

In April, a drone strike targeted a CIA hangar inside the airport complex in the northern city of Irbil, according to officials familiar with the matter. The drone’s flight was tracked to within 10 miles of the site, but its path was then lost as it moved into a civilian flight path, the coalition official said.

The drone’s remains were partially recovered, and preliminary analysis suggested it was made in Iran, a coalition official said. The attack deeply concerned White House and Pentagon officials because of the covert nature of the facility and the sophistication of the strike.

Although no one was harmed in the strike, it prompted a long night of deliberations over how to respond, according to Western officials. Some U.S. officials advocated serious consideration of a military response, including the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, said two people familiar with the matter. The Biden administration ultimately decided against taking military action.

A similar drone attack in May on the sprawling Ain al-Asad air base raised similar concerns among coalition commanders about how militias are adapting their tactics, according to officials and personnel on base.

Full story https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraq-militia-drones-threat/2021/05/28/864e44d0-bc8f-11eb-922a-c40c9774bc48_story.html