WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. retaliatory airstrikes against militants in Iraq destroyed five weapons depots, but the top U.S commander for the Middle East acknowledged Friday that there are many similar sites that the U.S. has so far not hit because of potential civilian casualties and political sensitivities with the Iraqi government.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said the U.S. decision to target the Iranian-backed Shiite militia group that killed American and British troops in a rocket attack this week sends a strong message to Iran and its proxies. But he said that as the threat of continued attacks remains high and tensions with Iran have not gone down, the U.S. is beefing up military assets in the region.
“What should now be obvious to everyone is you’re not going to be able to fire those at a U.S. or coalition base, hurt or kill our people, and escape unscathed,” McKenzie told Pentagon reporters Friday. He said the U.S. has been aware of the weapons sites and knows where more are, but has exercised “restraint” in bombing them because in some cases strikes would kill “a lot” of civilians. He said the U.S. works with the Iraq military to take out the sites, but at times that doesn’t work.
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