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US Will Retaliate For Tajji Deaths: Esper & Milley « Breaking Defense

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley

PENTAGON: Less than a day after rockets killed two US troops and one Briton at Camp Tajji in Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley made clear the US would take action – to be determined – against the perpetrators.

“I have spoken with the president. He’s given me the authority do what we need to do,” Esper told reporters this morning. “I’m not going to talk about what, when, who.”

Does that include possible strikes against Iran? “I’m not going to take any option of the table right now,” he said, “but we are focused on the group, groups, that we believe perpetrated this in Iraq.”

The attackers came from “Iranian-backed militia groups” using 107mm artillery rockets jury-rigged to fire from a truck. Of 30 rockets fired, many missed the target altogether, but the damage done indicates 12 to 18 rockets hit Camp Tajji, killing three and wounding another 14, five of them gravely.

The launcher was recovered by US and Iraqi forces and is now undergoing forensic analysis.

“We do know they are backed by Iran,” Esper said. “We know that for sure.”

Can you identify the specific groups?

“We could, but we’re not,” Milley said with his trademark bluntness. “We know with a high degree of certainty…. We have a good indication based on forensics, where it was fired from, who did the firing.”

“The groups that were responsible will be held accountable,” he promised. “We’re looking at everything [and] will await final options and decisions from the president.”

Esper and Milley have both talked to their UK counterparts, they said, and the US is working with allies on how to respond.

“Let me clear the United States will not tolerate attacks on our people, our interests, or our allies,” Esper said. “All options are on the table as we work with our partners to bring the perpetrators to justice and maintain deterrence. As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and in the region.”

“We’ve got to hold the perpetrators accountable,” he said. “You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill Americans and get away with it. We’ve been very clear about this certainly since December.”

Why “since December”? Jan. 3 was when a US drone strike killed Iranian Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani, his aides, and Iraqi militia allies just outside Baghdad.

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