President Biden ordered an airstrike in Syria on Thursday, after recent rocket attacks launched on US forces in Iraq. The target was a structure thought to be used for smuggling weapons by two Shia militias backed by Iran, CNN reports. The goal of the US attack was to hurt the militias' capability of carrying out any more attacks, per Politico, though the site, in the eastern Syrian town of Al Bukamal, has not been tied to the rocket attacks. The Defense Department had not publicly blamed any Iran-backed militias. Last week, per ABC, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US "reserves the right to respond in the time and manner of our choosing."
The Pentagon said the strikes were specifically in response to an attack in Iraq that killed a civilian contractor and wounded a service member, per the AP. A Pentagon spokesman called the airstrike a "proportionate military response." It was the first military action taken since Biden took office. "The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel," John Kirby said. "At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq." The airstrikes, which took place about 6pm ET, successfully "destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups," Kirby added. Attacks by Shiite militia groups against US targets in Iraq decreased in the months before Biden became president. (Read more airstrikes stories.)