At the heart of the base that is attacked by Iran, a u.s. commander tells “the fear”

Refugees in bunkers for hours, the walls trembling under the impact of missiles fired by Iran: for a top us commander present at the base in iraq targeted by Tehran on 8 January, the attack was ” unprecedented “.

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In an exclusive interview with AFP on the air base Ain al-Asad, in western Iraq, lieutenant colonel Tim Garland says that his superiors warned him of the coming attack ” with a few hours in advance “.

“My first reaction was shock, disbelief,” he said, recounting having been a skeptic on the fact that Iran may be able, and willing, to conduct an attack as reckless.

The iranian attack against the base of Ain al-Assad used by the american army was a response to the death of a powerful general of the iranian Qassem Soleimani, referred to in a u. s. raid in Baghdad on January 3.

Au coeur de la base attaquée par l’Iran, un commandant américain raconte « la peur »

The base, located in the province of Anbar, is one of the largest in the country, with thousands of iraqi soldiers, and some sections are dedicated to the 1500 american soldiers who are part of the coalition antijihadistes led by Washington.

Put the troops to the shelter was the priority, ” explains lieutenant-colonel. At 23: 00 local (20: 00 GMT), the us forces and the coalition had left their dorms to run into the bunkers, fortified, while others had been scattered to different places on the base.

The wait has been long, under tension, for more than two hours.

Purpose even for the experienced Tim Garland, nothing could have guessed the violence of the hits of the coming attack, which began at 01H35 local (22H35 GMT).

“When the first tower (of missiles) fell, it was the noise the most smashing ever heard,” he recalls.

“There was something strange with the air, the way he was moving, that it has warmed up. The door is ployée in a meaning under the shock wave, and then in the other direction, ” says-t it.

During three hours, about five series of strikes of ballistic missiles struck the base, at irregular intervals.

“I hadn’t been so afraid since a sacred moment. It’s been a long time “, breath the lieutenant colonel, who served several times in Iraq.

“We didn’t know what it would look like, if it was going to be a carpet of bombs “, he adds.

Au coeur de la base attaquée par l’Iran, un commandant américain raconte « la peur »

“A divine miracle “

To 04: 00 in the morning (01: 00 GMT), the military are pulled out of the bunkers to discover the basic prey to multiple fires, with more than a dozen places of impact.

Goal, miraculously, no soldier had been killed. Only two soldiers, who were on guard in the watch towers, were knocked to the ground, goal only to suffer from misappropriations.

“The fact that they have survived is a miracle divine,” judge lieutenant-colonel.

In his eyes, the interval observed between each flight of the missile was calculated to suggest to the soldiers that the attack was over. “It was long enough to make you believe that you were safe. I think it was done purposely for there to be victims, ” he says.

When AFP visited on Monday based on the invitation of the coalition, most of the damage had been cleared away and a bulldozer was carrying the metal bars twisted, and other debris from the runway landing to the base.

One of the dormitories of the soldiers has been completely sprayed, and on Monday, a smell of molten metal still floating in the air.

The soldiers were assigned to the AFP to have lost all personal belongings: their clothes, their books, pictures of their families and the messages that they kept preciously with them on each assignment in the military, sometimes for more than ten years.

Purpose, due to the intensity of the strikes Tehran, all of them have had a lot of luck, relativizes Tim Garland.

“Strikes of ballistic missiles for the show. This is unprecedented, ” he noted.

Au coeur de la base attaquée par l’Iran, un commandant américain raconte « la peur »