The two camps, Al Asad and Erbil have played a critical role in the US military campaigns in the Middle East.

TRT World / Fatih Uzun
TRT World / Fatih Uzun (TRTWorld)

Iran fired ballistic missiles at the US army bases in Iraq on Wednesday as both Washington and Tehran confirmed the first act of Iran’s promised revenge following the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. 

The Pentagon confirmed that the missiles were launched from Iran, targeting “two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and personnel” at Ain al Asad and Erbil bases. 

The incident marks a new turn in the intensified confrontation between archenemies the US and Iran, as it was directly launched from Iranian territory and by Iranian forces - not a proxy.

Both the Pentagon and Iraqi military officials said there were no casualties in the 22 missile attacks. 

The strike was bold and highly unusual for Iran, a country that tends to disguise attacks on US troops and its assets through the use of proxy Shia forces. 

However, this time, conventional, rather than asymmetric warfare was used, with Tehran readily taking responsibility for the attack

An aerial view of Ain al-Asad airbase located in the western Anbar desert west of Baghdad
An aerial view of Ain al-Asad airbase located in the western Anbar desert west of Baghdad (AP)

The significance of targeted sites

The two camps, Ain al Asad and Erbil, have played critical roles in the US military campaigns in the Middle East.

Strategically located in the Anbar Province of Iraq, around 217km from Syria, Ain al Asad airbase was initially built in the 1980s for the Iraqi military. 

During the US invasion of Iraq, it became one of the largest bases for American troops.

It grew so vast that it included cinemas, bus routes, swimming pools and fast-food restaurants, like a US suburban town. 

Although the base was handed back to Iraq after a US withdrawal in 2010, the US military regained control of it when Daesh took over part of Anbar province. 

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to the base in late December 2018.

"The men and women stationed at Al Asad have played a vital role in the military defeat of ISIS [Daesh] in Iraq and in Syria," Trump said during his speech to US troops. 

And he said he feared for the safety of his wife during the visit. 

“If you would have seen what we had to go through, with the darkened plane, with all windows closed, with no lights on whatsoever, anywhere — pitch black. I’ve never seen it. I’ve been in many airplanes — all types and shapes and sizes. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Trump.

President Donald Trump speaks at the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq during a visit.
President Donald Trump speaks at the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq during a visit. (AP)

The other US base targeted by Iran is located in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdish regional government. 

According to the US army, the base houses “more than 3,600 military and civilian personnel from 13 different nations.” 

In fact, the Delta Force commandos who carried out the assassination of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of Daesh, were stationed at Erbil base. 

As Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to end “endless wars” in the Middle East, the fate of US troops in the Middle East is uncertain. 

There are currently about 6,000 US troops deployed in Iraq. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies