Defense Secretary and 2019 Wash100 award winner Mark Esper said approximately 4K U.S. troops have been placed on alert in response to recent actions by an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
“If we get word of attacks, or some kind of indication, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives,” Esper told reporters Thursday. “So the game has changed, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to defend our personnel or our interests and our partners in the region.”
Four U.S. warfighters were wounded and a U.S. contractor was killed after the militia Kataib Hezbollah launched an attack against a military installation near Kirkuk, Iraq. That attack was followed with an attempt to make a foray against a U.S. embassy in Baghdad Tuesday.
The U.S. responded with airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, resulting in the death of more than 24 militia members. U.S. troops also flew Apache helicopters in response to the embassy siege.
The U.S. has already fielded about 750 troops to Kuwait and Esper said the soldiers would be on standby should the security situation in Baghdad worsen.