U.S. forces in Iraq today conducted a self-defense strike which killed Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al-Jawari, a leader of the Iran-backed Harakat al-Nujaba terrorist group that is operating both in Iraq and Syria, said the Pentagon press secretary.
Al-Jawari, also known as Abu Taqwa, was actively involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel. Abu Taqwa, along with another member of Harakat al-Nujaba, were both killed in a strike that took place around noon, Jan. 4, in Iraq, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder during a briefing today.
“It is important to note that the strike was taken in self-defense, that no civilians were harmed, and that no infrastructure or facilities were struck,” Ryder said.
The U.S. currently has a military presence in Iraq as part of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. The CJTF-OIR mission is to advise, assist and enable partnered forces in the defeat of ISIS within designated areas of Iraq and Syria. Inside Iraq, the U.S. works in partnership with both the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Security Forces to carry out that mission.
“U.S. forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq,” Ryder said. “They’re there for one reason, which is to support the defeat-ISIS mission. We’ll continue to work very closely with our Iraqi partners when it comes to the safety and security of our forces. When those forces are threatened, just like we would anywhere else in the world, we will maintain the inherent right of self-defense to protect our forces.”
The mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been ongoing for nearly a decade, and Ryder said the successes of CJTF-OIR are worth maintaining.
“It was 10 years ago this coming summer that ISIS was approximately 24 kilometers outside of Baghdad, when we kicked off the counter-ISIS mission after they had subsumed large swaths of Syria and Iraq,” Ryder said. “No one wants to see a return of ISIS … our focus is going to continue to remain on the defeat-ISIS mission. But again, we’re not going to hesitate to protect our forces if they’re threatened.”
U.S. Ready to Assist in Japan
On Monday, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Japan, with an epicenter on the Noto Peninsula — about 180 miles northwest of Tokyo. Ryder said the U.S. military is ready to help, if asked.
“On behalf of Secretary Austin and the department, our hearts are with the Japanese people after their tragic earthquake earlier this week,” Ryder said. “The United States and Japan share a deep bond of friendship that unites our people, and our Japanese ally graciously hosts thousands of U.S. service personnel and family members. As you’ve heard from the president and the U.S. ambassador, our military forces in Japan are ready to assist as needed.”