Five people – two foreign contractors and three Iraqi soldiers – were injured on Sunday, April 18 in a rocket attack on an air base near Baghdad, Al Jazeera reported. A total of five rockets hit the Balad air base, north of Baghdad, with two of them landing on a dormitory and one hitting a canteen belonging to US company Sallyport, according to security sources in the area. There were no reports of any deaths. The rocket attack was the latest in a series of attacks targeting US bases and other installations in Iraq as opposition to the US military presence in the country continues to grow.
Responsibility for the rocket attack was not immediately claimed by any Iraqi armed groups. The US has routinely blamed Iraqi Shia militias for such attacks, accusing them of carrying them out on the behest of or in coordination with neighboring Iran. Iran has consistently denied these allegations by the US, saying that it does not have a policy of interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries.
The Balad air base hosts several US F-16 fighter aircraft that the US military uses for training purposes. Several US maintenance companies employing foreign and Iraqi staff also have offices at the airbase.
The attack comes on the heels of the US announcing last week its intention to withdraw all remaining combat forces from Iraq, although it failed to specify a timeline for the same. The previous US administration of president Donald Trump had withdrawn approximately 2,500 US troops from Iraq last year, but fell short of a full withdrawal. Additionally, the US government also resumed what it is calling a ‘strategic dialogue’ with the Iraqi government of prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Multiple news reports reveal that since president Biden took office, close to 20 bombings or rocket attacks have taken place against US facilities and installations in Iraq. These attacks started becoming increasingly regular since Trump’s term, indicating growing anger against US presence in the country.
The US drone strikes in January last year that resulted in the illegal assassinations of Iranian general Qaseem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis have increased the opposition to US military presence in Iraq. The Iraqi parliament has also unanimously passed a resolution calling for the expulsion of all US troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.