Biden administration warns of consequences for deadly Iraq attack

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price answers a question during a news briefing at the department in Washington, February 9, 2021.

Olivier Douliery | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration vowed on Wednesday that there will be consequences for those behind the deadly rocket attack earlier this week in northern Iraq.

“It is fair to say that there will be consequences for any group responsible for this attack,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a briefing.

The attack in the city of Irbil in the Kurdistan region killed one civilian contractor and injured nine others, including a U.S. service member, according to U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the coalition fighting ISIS.

At least three rockets hit near the civilian Irbil International Airport late Monday night, Kurdish security sources told NBC News. A nearby base houses U.S. troops.

Price’s remarks Wednesday represents a slight escalation in the Biden addministration’s stance on the strike. On the heels of the attack, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was carrying out an investigation with its allies in the region. When pressed on a potential U.S. response, Psaki said that the United States “reserves the right to respond in a timely manner of our choosing.”

“But we’ll wait for the attribution to be concluded first before we take any additional steps. I will convey to you that diplomacy is a priority with this administration,” she said, without giving further details.

The rocket attack in Iraq comes as NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance, meets to discuss coalition-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I expect ministers will agree to launch an expanded mission, with more allied personnel training and advising in more security institutions across the country,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

“The mission will expand gradually in response to the situation,” Stoltenberg said, adding that the NATO members had received requests from the Iraqi government.

The Pentagon is “enthusiastic about and welcomes NATO’s increased focus on Iraq,” a senior Defense official told reporters ahead of the NATO meeting. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would not disclose whether the U.S. military would contribute more troops to the fight in Iraq.

The United States has 2,500 troops in Iraq and another 2,500 service members in Afghanistan.

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