Members of the U.S. armed forces who were stationed at Al Asad airbase on the night Iran attacked the base with a series of ballistic missiles were fortunate enough to escape harm’s way, as they reportedly had plenty of advance warning from the Iraqi government that the strike was imminent.
According to The Hill, no U.S. casualties were reported after Iran’s missile attack on Al Asad, which was one of two Iraqi-based bases which house American troops that were targeted by Iran in their retaliatory attack for a previous U.S. drone strike that resulted in the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Al Asad airbase is one of the country’s largest bases with roughly 25 percent of the troops and personnel on base being American.
Though most of the U.S. troops stationed at Al Asad were afforded plenty of time to be moved off-base, several troops stayed at the base but were able to shelter in available bunkers. However, some personnel were reported to be outside of the bunkers at the time of the strike, still having managed to escape injury. The results were called a “miracle.”
The intel that likely resulted in lives saved reportedly came from the Iraqi government, as CNN sources reported. Iran apparently informed Iraq of the bases they would hit, presumably to allow Iraq to make sure its own troops were out of harm’s way after the attack began.
As MilitaryTimes reported, on the same day Iran launched the missile attack, U.S. intelligence also warned of a potential ground assault on Al Asad by hundreds of members of the Kataeb Hezbollah, which is an Iranian-backed militia. Luckily, the ground assault never came to fruition.
Al Asad, which is located in Iraq’s Anbar Province, has a number of high-profile visitors in recent history. Last Thanksgiving, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife made a surprise visit to Al Asad airbase to conduct official business and to serve the troops a Thanksgiving lunch.
In December 2018, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump dropped in at the base for a surprise visit with U.S. troops stationed there. As Reuters reported at the time, Trump’s visit to Al Asad was his first visit to a military base in a conflict zone.
His visit came on the heels of his unpopular decision at the time to pull thousands of U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, with critics claiming that a reduction in troops in the region would allow terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State group, a chance to re-form.