American ground troops in Iraq have reportedly, for the first time, clashed with fighters from the Islamic State as the militants attempted to overrun an Iraqi military base.
The Daily Mail reports members of the Islamic State, the group commonly referred to as ISIS, attacked Ein al-Asad airbase in the early hours of Sunday morning where more than 100 U.S. troops are stationed in support of the base’s Iraqi troops.
All reports of the attack rely heavily on a story from the Iraqi news website Shafaq News, which reported the firefight Tuesday.
The website quotes an unnamed field commander of the Iraqi Army in Anbar province who characterized the U.S. involvement as a counterattack. The U.S. forces “equipped with light and medium weapons” and backed by F-18 fighter jets, helped Iraqi troops push back the ISIS offensive. The fight lasted for “more than two hours” and succeeded “in removing [ISIS] from al-Dolab area, and causing losses in their ranks,” the commander said.
Sheikh Mahmud Nimrawi, who is described as a prominent tribal leader in the area, also spoke with Shafaq News. He agreed that the fight was provoked by the ISIS attack.
“U.S .forces intervened because ISIS started to come near the base, which they are stationed in so out of self-defense, they responded,” Nimrawi said.
Pushing the militants beyond the al-Dolab area is a significant achievement, he said, adding that U.S. troops returned to the base once the fighting stopped.
About 180 American troops — described as advisors — first arrived at Ein al-Asad in November, according to a report from Iraqi News.
“The U.S. military advisors will help in training Iraqi combat forces to fight ISIS on the ground while the U.S.-led coalition is supporting them by providing aerial cover,” the story noted.